Search for life might fall to machines on distant worlds

Space Science

MYSTERY WIRE — “Send machines.”

It may not be the setup to the dramatic moment of first contact that moviemakers dream of, but it seems wise in the face of toxic atmospheres, hellish heat, frozen oceans and impossibly long journeys ahead.

David Grinspoon said it in 2018 in an interview with The Daily Beast. And he was probably right. “Send machines.” Grinspoon, of the Arizona-based Planetary Science Institute, had his eye on Venus in 2004 as a likely home to “niche” lifeforms.

It’s an example of how each destination will present its own challenges, and how humanity’s search for extraterrestrial life will shift depending on where we are looking, and what we are looking for.

Grinspoon’s statement is just one high point in The Daily Beast’s end-of-decade think piece:

Will we find aliens in the next decade? It’s not as crazy as you might think.

Another interesting point: The flawed strategy of the well-established SETI Institute search for signs of intelligent life. The “static” produced by stars is almost certainly going to mask any possibility of detecting meaningful radio signals. Perhaps that’s why SETI is now also looking for signatures of laser light.

Looking to the stars is a bold initiative, but planets and moons within our own solar system hold promise, too. Besides Mars and Venus, scientists have high hopes for Jupiter’s moon, Europa, and Saturn’s Enceladus. Recent evidence of water vapor plumes has plenty of attention.

Get the “Close Encounters” scene out of your brain long enough to understand we are looking for microbes before we look for aliens. But practice that first contact speech, just in case it’s aliens.

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