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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

NASA Ames Director: We’re Closer To Answering, ‘Are We Alone?’

NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)" href="http://media.wbur.org/wordpress/11/files/2013/11/1105_earth-like.jpg">An artist's illustration of Kepler-62f, a planet in the "habitable zone" of a star that is slightly smaller and cooler than ours. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

An artist’s illustration of Kepler-62f, a planet in the “habitable zone” of a star that is slightly smaller and cooler than ours. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

India successfully launched its first space mission to Mars today. The orbiter, named Mangalyaan, is expected to enter Mars’ orbit in September 2014. It would make India the fourth country to successfully reach Mars.

Meanwhile, scientists have estimated that in the Milky Way, there are 8.8 billion stars with Earth-sized planets at temperatures that would allow water in liquid form.

“In the next five or ten years, I think we’re going have a really good indication of, ‘Are we alone.’”

“Its a really neat result, it’s one that nobody expected 20 years ago that we could even do,” Pete Worden, director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, told Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.

NASA’s Kepler satellite took a census of about 4,000 of the planets in the galaxy, and from there, Warden says, scientists have been able to extrapolate what their solar systems looked like.

The next step is to determine whether the planets are habitable. Near the end of the decade, there will be a mission aimed at determining whether some of the nearest Earth-like neighbors have oxygen and water in their atmospheres.

“In the next five or ten years, I think we’re going have a really good indication of, ‘Are we alone,’” Worden said.

Guest


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  • big paw

    I don’t think the question has ever been; “Are we alone?’. I think the question has always been; “Where the heck are they?”.

    • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

      My favorite hypothesis: We are them.

  • Bob Loblaw

    The introduction to the article is written in error. Mangalyaan, or the Mars Orbiter Mission, is not intended nor even designed to land on Mars. It’s strictly an orbital mission, as its name suggests.

    • Rachel Rohr, Here & Now

      Thanks for catching that, Bob. The copy has been corrected to reflect that.

  • Bminder

    i’m all for the exploration, but look, odds are greater for our finding
    some sort of life form that leaves us in a relationship such as we have
    with the animals we share this planet with and so far there is not a
    single one of those that we don’t eat. we may not ever think we are
    heading out to establish a new source for food, but perhaps for just an
    instant, this search could cause us to reflect on just how we are
    behaving with reference to those we share this splendorous being with.
    bob minder

  • Les Heifner

    ”The next step is to determine whether the plants are habitable.” I think you mean planets. But it would be interesting.

    • Rachel Rohr, Here & Now

      Thanks for catching that typo, Les! It’s been fixed. Best, RR/Web Producer

  • mlauzon

    To think we’re ‘alone’ in the multiverse is insulting, out of the billions of galaxies, there’s no way that other life doesn’t exist out there!

  • jonathanpulliam

    NASA just intercepted a “burst” of so-called anti-neutrino quantum “replications” of this message: ” All your bases are belong to us. If you like your Earth, you can keep your Earth.”

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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