NASA’s top scientist predicts that we’ll find signs of alien life by 2025, with even stronger evidence for extraterrestrials in the years that follow.
“I think we’re going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we’re going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years,” NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan said Tuesday during a panel event on water in the universe.
“We know where to look. We know how to look,” Stofan added. “In most cases we have the technology, and we’re on a path to implementing it. And so I think we’re definitely on the road.”
Others at the panel agreed.
“I think we’re one generation away in our solar system, whether it’s on an icy moon or on Mars, and one generation [away] on a planet around a nearby star,” said John Grunsfeld, a former astronaut and associate administrator for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate
Jeffery Newmark, NASA’s interim director of heliophysics, added: “It’s definitely not an if, it’s a when.”
In 2014, NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope picked up on an Earth-like planet in the “habitable zone” of another star. At the time, the observation of the planet, Kepler-186f, was hailed as the first discovery of an Earth-size planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun.
Scientists believe there are potentially many more Earth-like planets in the universe — and some of them could be home to alien life.
When we do find evidence of life, however, it’s likely it won’t be signs of alien civilization but rather something much, much smaller. “We are not talking about little green men,” Stofan said. “We are talking about little microbes.”
Stofan’s claims echo one made at a similar event last year when NASA astronomer Kevin Hand also predicted a big discovery: “I think in the next 20 years we will find out we are not alone in the universe,” he said.
You can watch the full discussion from today’s panel below: