It took more than 30 years for NASA to open its tight-lipped response to theories of aliens or UFOs around the world but now within the ranks of NASA’s Gobbard Institute for Space Studies (GISS, there is conviction they may find alien life in the next 30 years.
The researchers from New york-based institute say that tracing alien life is possible by adapting its global climate model to simulate conditions on exoplanets, farthest from Sun. Once earthlike planets are found, they are sure that alien life in microbial form will at least be possible to decipher, if not those seen in Hollywood fiction with green body and eyes or other android formats.
“All of a sudden, this has become a topic not just for astronomers, but for planetary scientists and now climate scientists,” said Anthony Del Genio of the GISS. So far, NASA’s Kepler telescope has brought to our knowledge more than 1,000 alien planets which could be hosting habitable conditions to live for microbes. If not all of them, at least five potential planets with “habitable zone” where liquid water could persist have been found.
A new group known as Del Genio was formed with astrophysicists to conduct research in NASA’s future Nexus for Exoplanet System Sciences (NExSS) program to detect light passing through exoplanet surfaces, which could hold clues to habitable zones, said a study published in Nature.
With a budget of $10 million, NASA is bringing together researchers from varied disciplines to look at the formation and functioning of planets, said another researcher Mary Voytek, the mastermind behind NExSS program.
NExSS will help NASA develop missions to hunt for exoplanets in the 2020s and the Del Genio’s team is creating an exoplanet model that can be adjusted for different planetary systems, comparing Earth’s ancient origin and the evolution of Venus and Mars, which are suspected to be possessing traces of liquid surface water at some time in the past.
“In 15 or 20 years, we might get a spectrum of a planet that looks Earth-like… I would like it to happen quicker — but we need a big telescope,” says James Kasting from the Pennsylvania State University.
The momentum to NASA plans came from its chief scientist Ellen Stofan who revealed last month saying, “I think we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we are going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years.”
She further sounded confident when she said, “We know where to look. We know how to look. In most cases, we have the technology, and we are on a path to implementing it. And so I think we’re definitely on the road.”
Latest examples of finding oceans of liquid water slosh beneath the icy shells of the Jupiter moons Europa and Ganymede, as well as that of the Saturn satellite Enceladus gave the NASA fraternity the impetus.
Srofan, who has chaired committees including the National Research Council Inner Planets Panel for the recent Planetary Science Decadal Survey and the Venus Exploration Analysis Group, was supported by other astrophysicists.
“We can see water in the interstellar clouds from which planetary systems and stellar systems form,” said Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division of NASA.
Besides NASA plans to send manned mission to Mars in 2020s, other missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa in 2022 will bring the focus closer.
“I think we are one generation away in our solar system, whether it is on an icy moon or on Mars, and one generation (away) on a planet around a nearby star,” said John Grunsfeld, another expert associated with NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.