As more exoplanets are discovered and N.A.S.A. looks towards Mars, the search for extraterrestrial life is no longer considered a fool’s errand. Since the launch of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (S.E.T.I.) in the 1960s, an enterprise which scans the skies for artificial radio traffic, more and more professional astronomers think that the odds favor the existence of life somewhere else in the universe, whether it be an intelligent species or just a few microbes. Future missions to Mars want to establish if the planet once supported life.
What’s the Big Idea?
Author Paul Davies expresses the importance of looking beyond Earth in search of life: “Looking for alien civilisations is really, in the words of [S.E.T.I.] founder Frank Drake, a search for ourselves, who we are and how we fit into the great cosmic scheme of things. It is a subject that compels us to address the great questions of existence What is life? What is intelligence? Is the universe bio-friendly? What is the destiny of mankind? A society that is too mean-spirited to spare a minuscule fraction of its resources to reflect on its place in the cosmos is a society with an unpromising future.”