NASA searching for alien life exemplifies scientific curiosity and discovery

In Opinion
An illustration of NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite in space. A little green alien peeks out from the back of the satellite.
(Anita Huor / Daily Titan)

It looks like NASA’s scientists remain hopeful about the possibility of alien existence, as they plan to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite on April 16. The satellite, called TESS for short, will roam space in search of planets beyond our solar system (also known as exoplanets) that could potentially contain life.

Even though NASA’s latest launch may involve something yet to be proven, people who are skeptical can’t be quick to criticize scientists for launching a satellite that plans to look for exoplanets. Scientific discovery takes time, and it’s important to dismiss stereotypes found in film in favor of holding a more optimistic view of the possibilities that lie beyond Earth.

Scientists aren’t searching for the common grey alien or the vicious sharp-toothed nightmares from “Alien,” but for the possibility of living organisms on another planet. Hence, when in search of alien life in a place that’s as vast as space, a great deal of patience is necessary.

Sure, believing in aliens can seem a little loony, particularly when evidence of UFO sightings seems to cloud any reasonable judgement, but it doesn’t mean aliens can’t exist.

At its very essence, science relies on curiosity. Without it, there’s no reason to search for an explanation about why or how things work. Current understandings of the human body, the environment and space wouldn’t have been made possible without inquisitive and bold minds who searched relentlessly for possible explanations.

History has shown that scientists have constantly been criticized for their seemingly insane hypotheses about the world and what lies beyond. Undeterred by the skepticism of the public, scientists have continued to search and gain evidence until they’ve proven everyone wrong.

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution turned heads, and while the opposing theory of creationism still poses a challenge in more religious places in the United States, it’s essential to any science curriculum.

Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher, astronomer and Catholic priest, hypothesized that the Earth revolved around the sun, which eventually became accepted as universal truth. Bruno also theorized that the cosmos were infinite and could support the possibility of other life on planets similar to ours, but in 1600 he was burned at the stake for his beliefs.

Now, the desire to punish scientists has been replaced with apathy as most of NASA’s recent achievements have been ignored.

While many people don’t pay attention to whether or not astronauts are testing the human body’s limitations in space or searching for discoveries on other planets, the possibility of alien life may be enough to finally keep people in tune with NASA’s work.

Support for science, however minor, allows for significant discoveries to be made. Even though 2017 was a horrible year for the scientific community — thanks to the Trump administration and its disdain for science — just a simple recognition at this point would do.

If NASA’s scientists are still pondering the existence of potential alien life, people shouldn’t close their minds to the idea and deny it. No matter how skewed the identity of aliens has become in the public’s eye, scientists depend on strange hypotheses like alien existence to push the current boundaries of what is known and open people’s minds to all the unexplainable concepts that still remain a mystery.

Scientists take time to develop their hypotheses and test for possible ways to examine the situations around them, and while some discoveries may take a lifetime, this is the time to watch and wonder about the possibilities. After all, anything, even the most ridiculous theories, may prove to be true.

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