In April, Kathie Thomas-Keprta told a standing-room-only audience at the Astrobiology Science Conference that she had found evidence of life on a three-billion-year-old Martian meteorite. And no one was surprised. That’s because she and eight other researchers at several universities and NASA’s Johnson Space Center had reported the same thing about the same meteorite in 1996. They were met with criticism and ridicule back then. But this time, the reaction was more favorable.
On closer inspection, it seems that the Romulans haven't hijacked Voyager 2 after all. NASA has identified the problem that caused the space probe -- which is currently coasting somewhere 8 to 10 billion miles from Earth -- to start returning distorted patterns of data last month. Evidently a single memory bit in the memory of an onboard computer flipped from a zero to a one, a problem the space agency intends to fix tomorrow.
This week, NASA discussed their plans to explore Mars and Titan for signs of life, while Stephen Hawking warned against hostile aliens. So, being in an extraterrestrial-seeking mood, we've taken to the archives, where speculation about interplanetary neighbors--be they hyper-intelligent beings, primitive microbes or Martian beavers--has long filled our pages.
NASA's search for extraterrestrial life could result in missions such as a balloon or boat-like capsule on Titan, or even a complex three-part Mars mission to return a Martian sample to Earth. Until then, scientists have focused attention on both Earth and Mars regions which could hold organic materials or microfossils.
Extraterrestrial life hunters gathered this week near Houston at what amounts to a biennial Woodstock for astrobiologists, and a NASA teleconference today gave a glimpse into the proceedings. Some of the best and the brightest shared their latest findings and discussed future missions to search for signs of life on Mars, Europa and other exotic solar system destinations.
Stephen Hawking believes we should fear aliens, which would probably come to Earth in search of resources and bent on our destruction.
The venerated cosmologist says in a new Discovery Channel series that he thinks aliens exist, but we should do everything we can to avoid meeting them. Any life intelligent enough to find us would probably be seeking resources, he says. And that would likely be bad news for humans.
"We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet," he says.
Fifty years ago today, on April 8th, 1960, a Cornell astronomy professor named Frank Drake pointed a radio telescope at the star Tau Ceti in the hope of hearing broadcasts from extraterrestrial intelligence. Naturally, he didn't hear anything out of the ordinary. But with this experiment, Drake began the decades-long search for aliens, known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), that celebrates its 50th anniversary today. Over the last half century, SETI has failed at its initial goal of contacting aliens, but succeeded mightily in bringing new attention to astronomy, helping to develop cloud computing, and inspiring generations of new scientists.
While some scientists resort to undersea drilling to find undiscovered forms of life, a new group of researchers has decided that piloting a robotic submarine into a submerged volcano was the way to go. By exploring the deepest, hottest, undersea volcano ever probed, the researchers hope to find clues to both the beginnings of life on Earth, and the possible forms of life on other planets.
This week, scientists from around the globe converge on Cambridge University in England to discuss mankind's relationship with intelligent life from beyond the stars. So far, the news is not promising.
Humans built electrical barriers and dumped poison in the Illinois waterways, but an alien species still managed to leave a disturbing presence in the waters of Lake Michigan near Chicago. Fresh lake samples taken in December revealed the DNA of aggressive Asian carp, according to the Journal Sentinel. That news surfaced even as the U.S. Supreme Court announced yesterday that it had turned down a plea from Great Lakes states to force the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to shut lakeside navigation locks against the intruders.
Monoliths may not have transformed Jupiter into a star and made Europa a new Earth, but the late science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke might still be pleased, wherever he is, with NASA's prediction for 2010. Spaceflight Now reports that this year should prove whether fossilized life truly exists in three Martian meteorites, one way or the other.