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Congressional hearings on extraterrestrial life

Image credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Scientists educated members of the U.S. House of Representatives about the search for extraterrestrial life at a hearing held in Washington, DC on Wednesday, December 4.


The Committee on Science, Space and Technology, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), met for a two-hour hearing titled “Astrobiology: Search for Biosignatures in our Solar System and Beyond.” The hearing charter outlined the hearing’s goal, describing:

The purpose of this hearing is to examine astrobiology research and the search for biosignatures in our Solar System and beyond. The hearing will include a general assessment of the multi- and interdisciplinary nature of astrobiology research, including the role astrobiology plays in formulating NASA space missions. It will also examine the techniques and capabilities necessary to determine the potential for the existence of biosignatures within our Solar System. With the discovery of potential Earth-like planets outside of our Solar System, the hearing will also investigate what methods are being used to determine if any of these planets may harbor life. The hearing will explore existing and planned astrobiology research strategies and roadmaps.

Three leading scientists presented testimony at the hearing. They are:

  • Dr. Mary Voytek, Senior Scientist for Astrobiology, Planetary Science Division, NASA
  • Dr. Sara Seager, Class of 1941 Professor of Physics and Planetary Science, MIT
  • Dr. Steven Dick, Baruch S. Blumberg Chair of Astrobiology, John W. Kluge Center, Library of Congress

These scientists discussed exploration technology like the James Webb space telescope, emphasizing the importance of exploration ventures to the search for extraterrestrial life. Dr. Seager explained, “NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), scheduled to launch in 2018, will be capable of studying the atmospheres of a subset of the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, scheduled for launch in 2017) rocky exoplanets in visible, near infrared, and infrared light . . . We anticipate TESS will find dozens of super Earths suitable for atmosphere observations by JWST, including several that could potentially be habitable.”

Dr. Sara Seager. (Credit: MIT)
Dr. Sara Seager. (Credit: MIT)

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) asked the scientists, “Do you think there’s life out there?” Seager explained that the Milky Way galaxy contains 100 billion stars and the universe may contain 100 billion galaxies. Then she stated, “Do the math.” As the Guardian reports, when the three scientists were asked for brief answers to the question, “Is life out there?,” the response was “Yes,” “Yes,” and “Yes.”

This hearing comes just a day after the announcement that two studies have revealed that the Hubble space telescope detected water in the atmospheres of five planets outside the solar system. As NBC News reports, “The five exoplanets with hints of water are all scorching-hot, Jupiter-size worlds that are unlikely to host life as we know it. But finding water in their atmospheres still marks a step forward in the search for distant planets that may be capable of supporting alien life, researchers said.”

Jason McClellan

Jason McClellan is a UFO journalist and the producer/co-host of the web series Spacing Out! He is also the web content manager and staff writer for OpenMinds.tv, and a co-organizer and technical producer of the International UFO Congress. As a founding member of Open Minds, Jason served as a writer and editor for the now defunct Open Minds magazine. He has appeared on Syfy, NatGeo, and, most recently, he co-starred on H2's Hangar 1: The UFO Files. ------ Follow Jason on Twitter @acecentric and subscribe to Jason's updates on Facebook.

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  1. Can you believe it, another minimal effort by our Government to cover-up what’s really happening? Now they can say we held hearings and although there maybe life out there we haven’t found it yet. Come-on this was not the type of hearing the people want to see and they know it, that’s why they limited the discussion topics and brought in their own scientists to testify. When will they have real hearings with real people like Stephen Bassett, Steven Greer, Dr. Stanton Friedman, Dr. Roger Leir and others that have been studying the extraterrestrial visitations for many years, how about the Astronauts, Pilots and Government officials that have come forward. This hearing was just another Government Circus event.

  2. This is what humanity is all about; the unending need for search and discovery. I was particularly fascinated by the seemingly intersection of philosophy, faith, and science. This intersectionality would have been impossible even a decade ago. The fact that Science has, rather broadly, accepted human consciousness almost as a bona fide block of human life and development signals a truce, thus, a clearer path to the true mystery of human life.

    I am so proud to be alive in this time and wishing for the next generation of human beings–whether they[‘ll] exist here on earth or in another universe/planet–that they understand their individual and collective needs, hoping that such next generation, will be able to achieve what’s been so elusive to all generations before them: Peace.

    JULIAN JAYNES: O’ what a world of unseen visions and unheard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind! What ineffable essences, these touchless rememberings and unshowable reveries! And the privacy of it all! A secret theater of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries. A whole kingdom where each of us reigns reclusively alone, questioning what we will, commanding what we can. A hidden hermitage where we may study out the troubled book of what we have done and yet may do. An introcosm that is more myself than anything I can find in a mirror. This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything yet nothing at all–What is it?

    And Where Did It Come From?

    And Why?

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