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NASA tackles the quest of finding intelligent extraterrestrial life

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Several missions will soon tackle the quest for microbial extraterrestrial life, principally on Mars. But NASA now intends to aim higher, with a project to detect possible techno-signatures in atmospheres around exoplanets, and to find past or present signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life.   

Whether it is Europe, Mars, Jupiter’s moon, or even Encelade, Saturn’s moon, all of these places have the potential to harbour past or present microbial life.  Finding life on another planet or moon, not matter how minuscule, would be an incredible discovery.  It would prove for the first time that we are not alone in the universe.  Many fantasize about finding life more evolved, more intelligent and more advanced than microbial life.  However the discovery of microbial life would let us consider that there must be something more advanced that lives in our universe.

With the current technology, we can’t directly observe the surface of thousands of exoplanets that are already known to us.  However NASA plans to detect possible life by looking for techno-signature in exoplanets’ atmospheres.  This includes looking for radio waves, laser emissions, artificial light or pollution, chemicals, etc. To put it simply, all that is not natural and which could confirm the presence of an advanced civilization. If we were able to observe our planet from a distance, we would be able to detect techno-signatures.

In April 2018, the US Congress announced that it supported the US space agency in this research. Since, NASA has organised workshops dedicated to looking into techno-signatures.  These workshops aimed to evaluate potential research leads and possible investments opportunities for private or philanthropic partner organizations.
 NASA is setting itself the task of finding signs of life “elsewhere in the Universe” if it indeed exists. They aim to do this by looking at techno-signatures in exoplanets’ atmospheres and pursuing its quest for an extraterrestrial microbial life in our solar system.  The launch of the James Webb Telescope, which is scheduled for 2021 could be the next big step toward finding extraterrestrial life.   This telescope should be able to characterize exoplanets’ atmospheres as never before.


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