Are We Alone In The Universe?
The US Congress is close to renewing NASA funding for the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, after a 25-year pause. Are we any closer to finding life of on another planet?
It's an old question, but despite many estimates - based on Frank Drake's famous equation - that our own Milky Way galaxy could contain up to a million alien civilisations, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence begun in 1961 has so far failed. Funding for SETI - as it's known - has also been a problem, although private money has partly filled the gap. But SETI scientists are now hopeful that, after a 25-year pause, the US Congress will mandate NASA to spend ten million dollars a year, for the next two years, renewing the search.
And it's not all about intelligence, as everyone agrees the discovery of life of any kind on another planet would be astounding - with some of the most exciting developments in this field much closer to home.
This week on The Real Story we ask a panel of space scientists: are we any closer to finding extra-terrestrial life? What new approaches are showing promise? How will we know if we've found it? And what might that life be like?
(Photo: VLA Radio Telescope, New Mexico. Credit: Education Images/UIG/Getty Images)
Neil Bowles - Lecturer in Physics at the University of Oxford
Penny Boston - Director of NASA's Astrobiology Institute
Lisa Kaltenegger - Associate Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University
Andrew Siemion - Director of the SETI Research Center at UC Berkeley