Ever since our species discovered the existence of other planets beyond Earth, the question of whether we are alone in this universe has intrigued scientists and philosophers.
Now, according to NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan: the first signs of alien life could be discovered by 2025, and additional evidence will be revealed in 20 to 30 years.
“Are we alone? The fundamental question drives so much of what we do at NASA, including the work we do in astrophysics…pushing beyond our solar system and out into the universe,” said Ellen Stofan.
Stofan and her colleagues explained why the next generation should expect to see profound advancements when it comes to interplanetary science.
“We’re on the verge of things that people have wondered about for millennia,” Stofan said Tuesday during a panel discussion on water in the universe. “Within all of our lifetimes we’re going to understand that there is life on other bodies in the solar system. We’re going to understand the implications of that for life here on Earth.”
While Stofan predicts mankind is likely not alone in the universe, she said she expects alien life won’t be “little green men.” “We are talking about little microbes,” she said.
Water is one of the necessary elements in NASA’s quest to find habitable planets and life forms beyond Earth. It’s been found in surprising places.
In our solar system there are 10 bodies, including the Earth, which appear to have oceans. This does not include Mars which appears to have once have had, and lost, an ocean but which could still sustain life in some form beneath the surface or could have had life once.
Beyond Earth, the closest body thought to have large amounts of liquid water is the dwarf planet Ceres in the asteroid belt. The Dawn spacecraft is currently orbiting Ceres and more will be known soon but researchers believe that it is 25 percent water and that some of that water could exist in a liquid state.
Jupiters moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto are all thought to have some amount of liquid water. Europa is also thought to experience tidal heating compliments of its parent planet. Ganymede has its own magnetic field and could have several layers of ice and water beneath its surface.
Like Jupiter, Saturn has three moons which appear to have liquid water. Enceladus, Titan and Mimas all appear to have very deep oceans. All of them would, again, be buried beneath layers of ice but without a protective atmosphere or magnetic field those layers of ice could prove to be a useful shield against cosmic radiation for anything living in the water.
Finally there is Neptune’s moon Triton. Although it is very cold there appears to be a great deal of activity, including possible volcanic activity, beneath the surface.
Given the apparent abundance of water in our solar system and the Milky Way, and the possibility that life could even exist in conditions where water does not, aliens, it would seem, are just waiting to be discovered.
“It’s definitely not an if, it’s a when,” Jeffery Newmark, NASA’s interim director of heliophysics, said.
What about you? Do you think first contact with an alien lifeform is set to happen, or do you believe that nothing of the sort will ever happen, and that the only planet that contains intelligent lifeform out of all the galaxies in the universe happens to be good ol’ earth. Let’s just say that one comes into contact with an intelligent lifeform out there – what next? War to strip their planet of its minerals so that those on earth will be able to live comfortably all the more?