NASA is returning to the so-called SETI agenda, focusing on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, which was halted due to budget cuts back in 1993. The intention was put forward last week (September 26-28, 2018) at a NASA Technosignatures Workshop in Houston, Texas, according to NASA's website. Meanwhile, it has been suggested that the abbreviation SETI should be effectively replaced with the word “technostructures,” in a new, privately-funded venture NASA plans to embark on.
Technostructures, which are in essence analogous to biosignatures, are signs of cutting edge technologies in any of its plausible forms – any element, molecule, or isotope which provides hard scientific evidence of past or present life on another planet. While SETI focused largely on radio or light signals, “technostructures” is a vaster notion, embracing anything from massive artificial phenomena all the way to pollutants in the atmosphere of a given planet.
The workshop was conducted after Congress expressed a renewed interest in looking for intelligent alien life last April, urging NASA to expand its search for technosignatures, effectively assessing the current state of the field, the most up-and-coming domains of research and where investments could be made to this end.
Most quests for advanced alien life have until now sought radio waves of artificial origin. More recently, astronomers have suggested looking for visible laser pulses, which are referred to as optical SETI. Some exotic ideas have also arrived in abundance, like the possibility that a highly developed civilization might use neutron star mergers to send “readable” signals across the universe.