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Search for Alien Life Moves Well Beyond Mars



On Mars, a robotic rover called Endurance searches for life from the dawn of time. However, scientists are looking for signs of life in even stranger places, from clouds on Venus and methane lakes on Titan, to the alien atmospheres in worlds orbiting distant stars. They scan for foreign radio signals, look for signs of industrial pollution on distant exoplanets and investigate confusing interstellar objects that have captured our solar system.

The expanding search for clues to extraterrestrial life – and for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence – is entering the mainstream of astronomy and planetary exploration. In addition to NASA’s Mars Rover mission, which is now underway, dozens of research teams are looking for biosignatures from early microbial life, while the search for probable evidence of alien civilizations is gaining respect.

For the first time in a generation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is supporting efforts to find evidence of advanced civilizations elsewhere in the cosmos, scientists say. If extraterrestrial life exists — be it primitive or advanced — scientists may soon find a trace of it.

“If you̵

7;re talking about looking for life, even intelligent life, this may be the special time,” said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at SETI Institute, a nonprofit organization in Mountain View, California, that searches for intelligent beings. “We have the technological ability to find life in other worlds, and that ability is getting better.”

To advance the search for primitive life, NASA is preparing a $ 4.25 billion mission to Europe around Jupiter for launch in 2024 or so to study whether the moon’s frozen oceans and ice volcanoes are beneficial to alien biology. In 2027, the agency plans to send its $ 1 billion Dragonfly mission to a moon of Saturn called Titan to analyze the lakes of liquid methane. “We believe Titan has all the ingredients for life,” said planetary scientist Sarah Hörst of Johns Hopkins University, who studies alien atmospheres.


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