Curious about just how astrobiologists plan to make good on their goal to find life in space in the next 20 years? We've compiled some of the coolest upcoming search-for-life projects we could find--check out our feature on the subject here, and browse the gallery below for a guide to some of the most impressive efforts directed at finding extraterrestrial life.
Click to launch our guide to the current efforts dedicated to finding life in space.
"The genesis of life is as inevitable as the formation of atoms," is how Andrei Finkelstein, the director of the Russian Academy of Sciences's Applied Astronomy Institute, explained his ambitious timeline for finding alien life to an audience of astrobiologists and reporters in June. "There is life on other planets, and we will find it in 20 years."
But Tullis Onstott, a geologist at Princeton University who specializes in astrobiology, makes an even more ambitious prediction. "In the next 15 years," he says, "we will likely discover life on an exoplanet near us." Scientists have long predicted the discovery of extraterrestrial life, but Finkelstein and Onstott have good reason to be optimistic. Researchers are devoting more resources to the search for alien life than ever before, and they are getting some enticing results.
Did a NASA scientist find fossilized alien microbes embedded in a 146-year-old meteorite? As this claim emerged over the weekend, the answer from the scientific community so far appears to be something between “Um, what?” and “No.”
Winter has stymied a Russian-led effort to drill into an Antarctic lake that has been buried for 14 million years, scientists said this week. Just 96 feet short of their goal, scientists had to put their tools away and wait out the rapidly approaching Antarctic winter. But they don't want to lose the progress they've made so far, so they're pouring kerosene down the borehole to keep it from freezing.
Lonely Earth-like planets with tumultuous cores could conceivably support life even if they had no stars, a new study says. Researchers Dorian Abbot and Eric Switzer at the University of Chicago have dubbed these theoretical worlds “Steppenwolf planets,” because “any life in this strange habitat would exist like a lone wolf wandering the galactic steppe.” And because they were born to be wild.
An oxygen-rich lake, unreachable for the past 14 million years and buried beneath a thick sheet of ice, is about to be penetrated by a drill bit from a faraway place. It’s possible that special life forms have adapted to live in this extreme environment, and scientists hope to learn more once they can analyze water samples.
At first, the controversy over NASA’s arsenic-loving bugs centered on whether the space agency had found aliens. A week later, the debate has ping-ponged the other way, with scientists questioning whether the bacteria even love arsenic at all.
Biologists have isolated a bacterium that can use a deadly chemical in place of one of life's key building blocks, in a finding NASA says could have major implications for astrobiology and our understanding of life on Earth.
In the study, researchers examined a bacteria living in a very salty and arsenic-heavy lake in northeastern California, not far from Yosemite National Park. It is not a space alien, nor is it "new life" — it's an existing bacteria that lives in a difficult environment and was deliberately manipulated in a lab.
A nanosatellite no bigger than a loaf of bread -- and named after cookies -- is set to launch today to study the origins of life in the universe.
Its name stands for Organism/Organic Exposure to Orbital Stresses, but the mission is as much about proving small-payload satellites’ viability as it is about studying space microorganisms.
Scientists studying Titan’s atmosphere have learned it can create complex molecules, including amino acids and nucleotide bases, often called the building blocks of life. They are the first researchers to show it’s possible to create these molecules without water, suggesting Titan could harbor huge quantities of life’s precursors floating in its atmosphere. It’s a breakthrough that even has implications for the beginning of life on Earth.