Attention fellow earthlings and Mobilians: eat your Wheaties, get plenty of exercise and rest, maybe join a tai chi class, and for God’s sake stop smoking already. If you share my curious mind and fascination with the unknown, you’re going to want to stick around for at least another 20 years.
At a July 14 panel discussion held at its Washington headquarters, NASA revealed not only their continued confidence we are not alone in the universe, but their estimate that we will find alien life within the next two decades and possibly even sooner. For those who’ve been paying attention, this stunning prediction is hardly surprising as it comes in the wake of NASA’s announcement in April that they had discovered an earth-like planet in the habitable or “Goldilocks” zone of another star.
The remarkable discovery of Kepler-186f is the closest we’ve ever coming to finding a planet like our own. Astronomers believe there are countless more, and according to estimates they describe as “conservative,” they predict at least 100 million of these sister planets are capable of hosting complex life forms. And that’s just in our own galaxy!
NASA scientists are excitedly awaiting the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018, which promises even more dramatic advances in human knowledge. The high-tech instrument will study infrared light, making scientists far more effective at spotting and studying extrasolar planets, and plans are already in the works for the development of yet another generation of powerful telescopes that will help us get a glimpse at worlds far, far beyond our own.
However, many experts, including beloved “Science Guy” Bill Nye believes the first signs of life we discover outside of earth will actually be found much closer to home. Nye and many of his colleagues feel confident our best bet for finding alien life in the near future is either on Mars or Europa, Jupiter’s smallest moon, which we already know to contain two or three times the amount of water we have on earth.
At any rate, things are happening relatively quickly given the low priority our national budget gives to NASA, and it sounds like there’s a pretty good chance many of us will live to see the day scientists make what will perhaps be the greatest discovery of our species in confirming that life – and probably even intelligent life – exists beyond our own planet. Holy Crappoli!
Can you even imagine what it might be like to witness such a discovery? It will change so much of what we understand about the universe and ourselves, and it will likely be an exhilarating and perhaps even overwhelming experience for a lot of us. Of course “life” doesn’t have to mean “sentient beings,” by any means, and a single wriggling microbe would be huge. But the thought of making contact with another species of intelligent life is simply mind-blowing.
Since we’re on the subject of blowing minds (yikes!), I mean that figuratively, not literally, as I sincerely hope they wouldn’t be inclined to summarily obliterate us like the insignificant little bugs that we are.
I’ve seen enough Star Trek to imagine there might be some “bad guys” out there, at least from our own perspectives, but I’d like to think most civilizations advanced enough to communicate with us across light-years would treat us with compassion and perhaps, at least in my fantasies, show us more compassion than we show each other.
It’s very exciting to think about all the things we might learn from a far more advanced civilization. There may be much they could teach us in dealing with mankind’s biggest struggles such as curing cancer, eradicating hunger and preserving our increasingly fragile planet. Perhaps they could even help us find the secret to subsisting on ribs, cornbread and ice cream while maintaining optimal fitness and health.
In the meantime there are so many decisions to be made. Firstly, who gets to greet them first if they visit? It’s a pretty important job, as the chosen person or persons will essentially provide our extraterrestrial visitors with what may very well be their first clear impression of humanity. Obviously we’ll want someone who’s not going to embarrass us all (sorry Bieber, foiled again), and ideally I’m assuming we’d want someone known worldwide and universally loved. Maybe someone like Oprah or the Dalai Lama or Nick Saban.
And of course there will be the ginormous matter of trying to reach a consensus among nations as to how to handle the unprecedented situation. What do we do if North Korea pops off at the mouth and threatens to nuke the little green men with apocalyptic-grade photon blasters in their back pockets?
And then there’s the matter of our fellow earthlings who will inevitably freak the hell out and start burning and looting and insisting the end is near. It only makes sense such an encounter would cause some instability as it’s understandably frightening and also potentially disruptive to the long-held beliefs on which many of our religions are founded. It will no doubt lead humanity into a long period of reassessment about ourselves and our place in the world around us.
We’ll make it through (assuming they don’t blow us up after all) and hopefully come out of it with new friends and maybe even some cool new styles of music and dance that the hippest of our hipsters never even imagined yet.
There are so many exciting things in store in the coming decades. Stay tuned and stay healthy. Watch your cholesterol and stress levels, and stay away from the Ebola virus. Something tells me you’re going to want to stick around for this.