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Extraterrestrial life could be discovered in 10 to 20 years time

Credits : NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute

David Clements, an astrophysicist from London Imperial College, is convinced that signs of extraterrestrial life could be discovered in 10 to 20 years time.   However according to him this life will probably be hidden under ice. 

Could extraterrestrial life be discovered in 10 to 20 years?

This type of discovery could changer everything.  Learning that extraterrestrial life exists would be no trifling matter and our view of life in general could be completely turned upside down.  For the moment, no other life in space has been found but it won’t stay like this for long.  At least this is what David Clements believes.  In a recent paper published in Journal of British Interplanetary Society, the researcher states that in light of the system progress and technological advances, discovering extraterrestrial life within 10 to 20 years could be possible.

Humans are a very intelligent form of life however we are the result of a series of circumstances that happened on Earth. As an example, the asteroid which brought about the end of land dinosaurs only had 10% chance of happening.  Nevertheless the asteroid fell in the worst possible place.  However, had it impacted Earth a few miles away, the dinosaurs would probably have survived. Mammals would not have been able to take over, and we would not be here.

Microbial life

However what about a “simple life” or a microbial life?  As David Clement noted in Newsweek, “life can exist in areas on Earth which were once thought to be inhospitable: life is found in hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean and in subterranean lakes miles below Antarctica ice.”  Therefore it seems as though microbial life doesn’t need much to see the light of day.  If this is the case, we’d be entitled to think that life could exist elsewhere in the Universe.

The astrophysicist says, all that is needed for life to exist is the presence of water and some form of energy. In our solar system, Earth is not the only planet which has these conditions. The areas in particular are the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, Europe and Enceladus.  Each has a global ocean which, may be hidden under a thick layer of ice, but are clearly “heated” by underground hydrothermal activity.

Europe Ganymède Jupiter vie planète système solaire
The moon’s of Jupiter, Europe (left) and Ganymede (right). Both moons have underground oceans which are suspected to have the right conditions to support life. Image not to scale. Credits : NASA

If there is life out there, it is probable under ice

Life could very well exist in our solar system other than on Earth.  However, if this is the case, there is a strong likelihood that this form of life is confined under a thick shell.  The researcher writes, “We are left with the rather chilling prospect that the galaxy may be filled with life, but that any intelligence within it is locked away beneath impenetrable ice barriers, unable to communicate with, or even comprehend the existence of, the universe outside.

Promising missions

When discussing how this extraterrestrial life could be discovered, David Clements reminds us that “a number of upcoming missions and facilities over the next 10 to 20 years will significantly enhance our ability to detect life elsewhere.” This included NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, ExoMars 2020 (ESA), or the Europa Clipper mission (2025), which will soon be sent to the Jovian system. A private mission could also take place around Enceladus. Not forgetting of course the James Webb Telescope, the successor to the Hubble telescope, which is planned to launch in 2021.  This powerful telescope will aim to look for signs of life from planets beyond our solar system.

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