By 2020 we were expecting jetpacks, hoverboards, flying cars and interplanetary travel. But what might actually happen in the next decade is discovering life on other planets.
A Daily Beast report quoted comments from astronomer Seth Shostak at SETI (the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence), predicted that Earth would make contact with another world before 2030.
In 1977, Voyager 1 and 2 were launched into space in different directions, packed with music, documents, and spoken greetings in 55 languages. Voyager 1 has left our solar system and by 2025, it will cease transmitting data as its power supply finally dies.
More recently, in April 2018, NASA launched the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a telescope designed to search for planets in different solar systems. Thus far, several different planets have been found like a warm Jupiter-type planet, a super-hot Earth and exo-Neptune. In the first month after TESS’s launch, NASA discovered eight planets and the experience and tactics will only get better, discovering more and more places where life could exist.
Then there’s NASA’s new James Webb telescope, the “world’s premier space science observatory,” which should be in operation by 2021. Another telescope, the ESA’s Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-Survey telescope will hopefully be launched in 2028 if everything stays on track.
There are so many different ways that the Earth is searching for other life that it’s merely a numbers game at this point. There are so many options, and the technology of detection is growing so rapidly that the chances are growing with it.
“The universe, we could conclude, is teeming with life,” Shostak told The Daily Beast.
Life on other planets doesn’t exactly mean “little green men” featured in old-school Hollywood films or the almond-eyed grey creatures in “The X-Files.” Life could be anything from microbes, advanced sea creatures, and other kinds of life that we’ve never even thought of.
Shostak isn’t the only one to anticipate finding alien life. As the late Carl Sagen once explained it, there are “billions and billions” of solar systems in the universe and if fewer than 10 percent of those have some form of life, that still means an absurd amount of possibilities.
“Why should we be the only ones?” asked astronomer Martin Dominik from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
From the alien perspective, if they are looking into space the same way the Earth is, they could see our planets, but they may not be able to detect that there is human civilization thriving.
“If we transmitted with all of our power possible, you’d never hear it because the sun would overwhelm it [with] the radio signals that it makes,” the Beast quoted former NASA astronaut Terry Virts, explained on the science podcast Oh No Ross and Carrie.