In partnership with Twitter, Explorer magazine and public, the agency and its partners hope to design ‘inclusive’ strategy to detect ‘Homo sapiens’
In its search for extraterrestrial life, NASA is calling for a more collaborative approach that could encompass more players – including politicians – to help expand the scope of science, alien life forms and communications.
James Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA, said at a media briefing on Tuesday that the sky was vast and that he hoped the agency would find evidence of alien life soon.
“We have a lot of tools and techniques to do that,” he said, but the idea of a more inclusive approach might not get that far.
The firm that NASA has been relying on to discover alien life is the SETI Institute in California. This organization is leading the search for life on planets near other stars, to the tune of hundreds of alien worlds.
Green agreed with reporters that SETI was doing a “great job” and said a lot of progress has been made with this search but that it had to be supplemented with other methods.
“It’s very powerful technology,” he said, but added that “there are some questions about how to tackle it”.
To bolster its search, NASA has decided to partner with Twitter, Explorer magazine and the public to draft a new strategic plan for finding and potentially working with life on other planets.
The goal of the plan is to create a “comprehensive” approach that would include all the players, be “inclusive” of representatives and be evidence-based.
Matthew Bailer, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said NASA wanted to put more collaboration in the search for life.
“To that end,” he said in a blogpost, “we would like to explore going beyond SETI.”
Most extraterrestrial life is probably going to be alien humans.
“The last goal is really to have an impact, which would be a major change,” said Green. “Where to from here? That’s the question, and we’re going to try to answer it as best we can.”
The asteroid belt is a prime goal, since studies have found that life can accumulate there.
“We want to include the environment in some way,” said Jaimie Reisner, managing editor at Explorer magazine.
NASA is also looking at hydrothermal vents and other hotspots that could potentially support life.
The hope, of course, is that these worlds don’t just have life but also humans living on them. But more specifically, if someone was actively looking to be the first person to set foot on another planet, it would take a very large and long time to do so.
“If we ever set eyes on a planet, the projection that it takes is about 20 to 30 years,” said Reisner. “That is no longer sufficient.”
He said all of the partners involved were trying to develop the best science tool that could quickly narrow down potential worlds to where they may see signs of life or detect an influx of life.
The team working on the space to Mars rover wants to deploy a robot that could start some sort of life-extinction process to make sure there is no life there.
But even if the possibility existed of humans hunting for life, Bailer said that it was not a good place to begin.
“It’s like looking for that lost puppy on the beach. If you find it, you look for its mum,” he said. “If there’s no mother there to kick it, it’s still probably going to die.”