"We are going to find life in space in this century." Those are the words of Senior Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI) Astronomer Seth Shostak, speaking at last week's European Commission Innovation Convention. Like many others in the scientific community, for Dr. Shostak the question is not if we will discover alien life, but when.
The search, says Dr. Shostak, is drawing to a close, and it will end in one of three ways. First, we could find life nearby, on Mars or Europa, existing as microbes or other tiny microscopic structures. Second, we could find gasses in the atmospheres of far-off worlds that are produced by life's processes, like photosynthesis. Lastly, we could pick up the signals of alien life through stations like SETI itself.
It'll happen within the century, says Shostak, but more than likely we won't have to wait until 2099. The next 25 years or so will give us enough time to probe our neighborhood for microbial life. With Kepler back in action and more powerful telescopes in development, we're also closer than ever to finding evidence of life upon those planets we've deemed most habitable. While SETI's search itself could go on much longer than the year 2029, it doesn't seem like Dr. Shostak thinks it will have to. However we do discover life beyond our atmosphere, we hope he's correct and it happens soon.