According to NASA, humanity is 20-30 years away from discovering alien life.
On April 7, during a panel discussion on the subject of NASA’s missions regarding habitable planets, the agency’s chief scientist Ellen Stofan made the following statement:
“I think we’re going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we’re going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years.”
Stofan justified her statement by saying that experts known where to look and in most cases have the proper technology to do so. Considering that the mission attempts have already begun, she considers finding habitable planets and local living life forms is now just a matter of time.
Former astronaut John Grunsfeld who is now associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate added that new life forms could be found in our own solar system as well as further into the galaxy.
In order to keep the plan on its right track, NASA already scheduled a few key projects for the years to come.
In 2020, the agency plans to send the next Mars rover to search for evidence of Martian past life. The samples will then be sent to Earth for analysis. After that, the next step is to send an astronaut crew to Mars. This mission is planned somewhere around the 2030s.
Mars isn’t the only target. Europa is another destination planned for 2022. The Europa mission is worth $2.1bn and its main purpose is to explore the possibility of habitating this icy moon but also search for signs of alien life. Another aim is to study the water released in vapor form from Europa’s south polar area. Scientists are now trying to come up with a way to retrieve samples of that vapor water and send it back to Earth.
An earlier project, set for 2018, implies sending NASA’s $8.8bn James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to explore the atmosphere of so-called “super-Earths” situated at a relatively close distance to our planet.
NASA’s astrophysics director Paul Hertz explained that the agency is already developing more complex telescopes, designed to examine the atmosphere of rocky planets in search of chemical markers that indicate the presence of life on those certain planet.
However, one shouldn’t overestimate these plans. When talking about alien life forms, NASA doesn’t have high expectations. The agency considers that finding bacterial life forms would already make it a historical moment.
Image Source: Empire State Tribune
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