NASA has been having a busy summer. First, they announced that they are recommitted to sending a manned mission to Mars by the year 2035, and now they want to take a step further into the great unknown.
Last week at their Washington headquarters, CBSNews.com reports that the space agency has announced plans to search for alien life using current telescopes, and announced the launch of the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite or TESS in 2017. The NASA administrators and scientists estimate that within the next 20 years, humans will be able to locate alien life!
“Just imagine the moment, when we find potential signatures of life,” says Matt Mountain, director and Webb telescope scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over—the possibility we’re no longer alone in the universe. It’s within our grasp to pull off a discovery that will change the world forever.”
The NASA planet hunters calculate that 100 million worlds within the Milky Way galaxy are able to sustain complex alien life forms—and those are the conservative estimates! “What we didn’t know five years ago is that perhaps 10 to 20 per cent of stars around us have Earth-size planets in the habitable zone,” says Mountain.
Possible candidates of life-sustaining bodies in space include Europa, Jupiter’s sixth largest moon, which has shown signs of “clay-like minerals” on its surface. Of course, the biggest candidate for finding life is Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, the only object other than Earth for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid have been found.
“Do we believe there is life beyond Earth?” asked former astronaut and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “I would venture to say that most of my colleagues here today say it is improbable that in the limitless vastness of the universe we humans stand alone.”
This is possibly the greatest time to be alive in the history of the universe. Just imagine where you will be when you first see the satellite picture that shows the very first sign of life outside our home planet. And that would just be the beginning—a discovery of this magnitude could spur a stampede of scientific research in the following years. Now is definitely the time to be studying the stars.
Photo credit: CBS Connecticut