8 December 2013, 19:57

American scientists say they have the technology to search for alien life

American scientists say they have the technology to search for alien life

Scientists may be on verge of breakthrough in search for aliens. For thousands of years, humans have been wondering whether there's life elsewhere in the universe. Now, the technology finally exists to search for it.

To find extraterrestrial life scientists need telescopes capable of detecting Earth-like planets and ways to detect biological signatures of life or signs of alien technology. While some of these tools already exist, astrobiologists asked the US Congress to invest in the next chapter of the search for life beyond Earth.

"This is the first time in human history we have the technological reach to find life on other planets," Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at MIT, said at a House Committee on Science, Space and Technology hearing today. "People will look back at us as the (generation) who found Earth-like worlds."

"Astrobiology has become a crosscutting theme of all NASA space science endeavors," and continued funding is important, said one of the congressmen.

The Kepler mission has identified more than 3,500 potential planets outside Earth's solar system, including 10 that are Earth-size and lie within their star's habitable zone. And the space-based Hubble and Spitzer telescopes recently imaged the atmospheres of an exoplanet directly.

Meanwhile, the Mars rover Curiosity has found evidence that past conditions on the Red Planet could have supported life.

NASA's TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) telescope, set to launch in 2017, will search for exoplanets using the transiting method the Kepler mission used to detect planets crossing in front of their host star. The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2018, will be able to peer more closely at some of the planets detected by TESS.

Then there's the prospect of intelligent life. Space historian Stephen Dick, currently an astrobiology scholar at the Library of Congress, called for renewing efforts to look for intelligent life via the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).

The experts said that sustained funding was needed for scientific research in general and space research in particular. The latest White House budget calls for $17.7bn for NASA, a slight decrease from 2012 after deeper cuts in the last decade. 

Voice of Russia, NBC 

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