They're Out There! NASA Scientist Ellen Stofan Thinks We'll Discover Alien Life Within A Decade

In a recent panel discussion at NASA HQ in 2015 about habitable planets and searching for alien life, NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan dropped this bombshell: "Well, I'm going to go a little out on a limb here and say I think we're going to have strong indications of life beyond earth within a decade."

Yep, that's from a NASA top dog boffin. She then went on to say that she thinks we'll have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years. "We know where to look. We know how to look," Stofan continued. "In most cases we have the technology, and we're on a path to implementing it. And so I think we're definitely on the road."

That's not to say we'll discover intelligent life, but there are many places in our own solar system which could harbor some form of alien lifeform. One of those is Europa, Jupiter's icy moon, which beneath the thick layer of ice, it's suspected lurks a liquid ocean which could contain many different forms of living organic matter.

201182main_rs_image_feature_907_946x710
Europa rising above Jupiter's cloud tops. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Back in February the White House allocated funds in its fiscal year 2016 budget for a Europa mission, a mission which will likely involve the concept of the Europa Clipper, a spacecraft that will fly over the moon around 45 times over 3.5 years to make observations and study the ocean under Europa's icy shell.

But there are plenty of other planetary bodies too. One place that might not require as much effort as Europa is Enceladus, one of Saturn's 31 moons. Plumes of water vapor have been seen by the Cassini spacecraft spraying from its surface and they could be the ideal place for aliens.

The NASA chart below details the worlds in our solar system that have the best chance for harboring life.

oceanworlds_infographic_full

And if you were wondering what, exactly, alien life may look like, the video below by Slate should give you some indication.