There will be strong indications of alien life within a decade and definite evidence of it within 20 to 30 years, according to NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan, who spoke at a panel discussion on water in the universe at NASA headquarters on Tuesday (April 7, 2015).
Stofan emphasized that what we find probably won’t be, as she said, little green men. It’ll probably be little microbes living on worlds in our own galaxy and possibly even in our own solar system.
The discussion at NASA Tuesday focused on recent discoveries of water and organics in our solar system, and our search for habitable worlds among the stars.
We know where to look. We know how to look.
In most cases we have the technology, and we’re on a path to implementing it.
And so I think we’re definitely on the road.
Stofan’s colleague, Jeffery Newmark, NASA interim director of heliophysics, agreed. He said:
It’s definitely not an if, it’s a when.
Several recent discoveries have brought scientists closer to understanding extraterrestrial life, including a study that determined that half of Mars’ northern hemisphere was once covered with mile-deep water oceans for as long as 1.2 billion years. A study using the Hubble Space Telescope provided powerful evidence that Jupiter’s moon Ganymede has a saltwater ocean beneath its icy crust. Another of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, and Saturn’s satellite Enceladus are also thought to have an ocean of liquid water beneath their surface in contact with mineral-rich rock.
Since water is essential for life as we know it, all of these discoveries are significant.
Watch Tuesday’s discussion of extraterrestrial water, which took place at NASA headquarters, below.
Bottom line: At a panel discussion on water in the universe on April 7, 2015, NASA scientists predicted that there will be strong indications of alien life within a decade and definite evidence of it within 20 to 30 years.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.