When we look around the planet, one thing is consistent. Life will thrive even in some of the most extreme places on Earth. These include the driest deserts, the top of frozen mountains, deep trenches within the ocean floor and more. There are always signs of life in these places, such as plants, animals, fungi and even tiny alien-like microbes.
It has been a total of 4 billion years since life began on Earth. The planet looked very different back then, not the nurturing habitat but a dark alien-like planet. A combination of volcanic explosions and other events sparked creation. Once the planet cooled down enough, the planet's earliest life forms were formed, deep in the bottom of the pre-historic oceans.
Atoms are freer to move and flow within a liquid vs a solid or gas and combine with other molecules to form more complex organisms. Add some heat from the sun, oxygen, carbon and sulfur gases into the mix, and voila, the first cells emerged. From then on, life developed rapidly, with one complex organism evolving into more complex beings culminating with us humans.
Because it happened quickly here on Earth, it stands to reason that it can happen on other planets, too. After four billion years, it's now time to find an answer to one of the biggest questions asked by humanity: Are we alone in the universe?
Now more than ever, the truth may finally be within our reach. Advances in technology and the looming reality of commercial space flight have some NASA scientists convinced that within a few decades, we will have answers.
How life on Earth came to be can give us clues on where to start looking for our "cosmic kin." Since life began in the water, it makes sense to look for planets with oceans or ocean worlds like Earth. Some candidate planets include Kepler 62F, Trappist 1D, Teegarden B, and K2-18B, which confirmed atmospheric water vapor.
But of course, many of these planets in our galaxy that are awash in water won't be habitable to human life as we know it. It will indeed be a hit and miss search for the right one. And if by chance none of the planets will do, any one of the estimated 100 trillion planetary moons in our galaxy alone might work out as our new home. Some may have surface water or oceans and share the same size and atmosphere as Earth.
The next few years will be exciting regarding what we might find out there. Right now, accessible commercial space travel is closer to becoming a reality with the Space X and Blue Origin programs. A mission to Mars is currently planned by both NASA (target date is 2030) and Space X (2026).
With so many places to find life, just in our galaxy alone, it might only be a matter of time before we make a discovery.
Directed by: John D. Boswell