Search for Life On New Planets

June 20, 2014 • Volume 24, Issue 23
Are distant worlds habitable?
By Marcia Clemmitt


The Allen Telescope Array (SETI Institute)
The Allen Telescope Array, in Northern California, is now made up of 42 dishes that scan space for radio signals possibly sent by civilizations from distant planets or moons. Initially funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the privately operated array is envisioned to include 350 dishes when, and if, funds are raised for its completion. (SETI Institute)

With increasing frequency, scientists are finding evidence that planets and moons throughout the universe could be hospitable to life. Nearly 1,800 planets orbiting stars other than the sun have been confirmed since 1995, including more than 700 in February alone. Scientists now conclude that the Milky Way galaxy alone contains a trillion planets, and many believe microbial life, if not intelligent life, exists beyond Earth. Still, finding extraterrestrial life poses enormous challenges. Adequate instruments for observation and sufficient scientific understanding don't yet exist to determine whether distant planets — or even potentially habitable moons in our own solar system — harbor life. Moreover, scientists are split on whether sending robots or humans to explore distant worlds is more effective. The biggest challenge for space science, however, may be Washington budget-cutting, which has made it difficult to ensure stable, long-term funding for large scientific projects.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Space Exploration
Aug. 04, 2017  New Space Race
Jun. 20, 2014  Search for Life On New Planets
Feb. 24, 2012  Space Program
Aug. 16, 2011  Weapons in Space
Oct. 16, 2009  Human Spaceflight
May 23, 2003  NASA's Future
Jul. 23, 1999  New Challenges in Space
Apr. 25, 1997  Space Program's Future
Dec. 24, 1993  Space Program's Future
Mar. 29, 1991  Uncertain Future for Man in Space
Jul. 31, 1987  Space Race
Feb. 07, 1986  Space Decisions after Challenger
Feb. 18, 1983  American Options in Space
Nov. 10, 1978  Changing U.S. Space Policy
Jul. 04, 1975  Cooperation in Space
Mar. 15, 1972  Space Shuttle Controversy
Oct. 01, 1969  Mission to Mars: Benefits Vs. Costs
Nov. 13, 1968  Goals in Space
Jun. 29, 1966  Future of Space Exploration
May 08, 1963  Moon Race Controversy
Jun. 27, 1962  Peaceful Use of Outer Space
Nov. 01, 1961  Space Exploration
Dec. 09, 1959  National Space Policy
Feb. 19, 1958  Control of Outer Space
Cold War
Regional Political Affairs: Russia and the Former Soviet Union
Space Sciences and Exploration