It may not be giant green monsters or the little gray men we see in the world of science fiction, but scientists are coming close to finding alien life, says NASA.
Scientists will find indications of life within the decade and definitive evidence within twenty to thirty years, says Ellen Stofan, NASA Cheif Scientist during a panel discussion on water in the universe. “We know where to look. We know how to look,” she also stated, “In most cases we have the technology, and we are on a path to implementing it.”
The main ingredient to life that NASA and other scientists look for is water. It was the reason NASA “bombed” the moon with a satellite in 2012. They were looking for signs of water beneath the surface, and they found it. The mission was a success. NASA created an infographic that shows and explains all of the worlds with oceans just in our solar system alone (see below). The European Space Agency has planned a mission to three moons of Jupiter (Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto), all of which are listed on NASA’s graphic. The mission is planned to launch as early as 2022.
When the scientists say life, they are not talking about intelligent life. They are talking about microorganisms. A microorganism or microbe is an organism that is too small to see with the naked eye. It might not sound like much, this is the small step to finding alien life outside of our solar system, and former astronaut John Grunsfeld said it is an exciting time. And indeed it is. With humanity reaching out to other worlds for possible habitable human colonies and now edging closer to finding life on other worlds, this is the most exciting time for space exploration since we first landed on the moon.
Water (in both liquid and solid form) has been discovered on many bodies throughout our solar system. The graphic presented below shows the bodies with oceans (Earth, Ceres, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Enceladus, Titan, Mimas, Triton, and Pluto), but there are other forms of water present in the solar system that could contain living microorganisms. Mars, for example, is mostly made of ice. This is important because we have seen single-celled organisms survive in the frigid conditions of Antarctica. Mars also shows evidence of past freshwater lakes.
This is most definitely an exciting time for space exploration. And as we reach out into our universe we are a small step closer to reaching out to other stars. Humanity’s ultimate destination seems to inevitably head into the vast universe. And most scientists agree, we are heading in the right direction.
Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory