Whether or not you believe that alien life exists, top scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) think that we are not alone in the universe.
In a panel discussion on the search for other life in the universe which was held at the NASA headquarters in Washington on Monday, scientists from the space agency revealed they believe in the possibility of life existing elsewhere in space.
"Do we believe there is life beyond Earth?" asked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former astronaut, at the hour-long discussion. "I would venture to say that most of my colleagues here today say it is improbable that in the limitless vastness of the universe we humans stand alone."
During the panel discussion, scientists did not only probe on the question of whether or not we are the only life forms in the universe. The discussion also focused on the technological advances that have been made to find the answer to the question.
The panel, consists of top NASA scientists including the agency's chief scientist Ellen Stofan and NASA's associate administrator John Grunsfeld, said that scientists are closer to finding another Earth-like planet than most people realize and with current and future telescope projects, finding another life in other planets may be possible in as early as twenty years.
Current space projects have already paved way to significant discoveries in the past few years. Matt Mountain, from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland, said that the Kepler Space Telescope project has led to the discovery of an Earth-sized planet that orbits in a star's so called "habitable zone," where an orbiting planet could exist with liquid water on its surface. The Dark Energy Survey and Very Large Telescope projects have also helped detect the presence of other planets.
Astronomers, however, are particularly excited about the Transiting Exoplanet Surveying Satellite (TESS), which will be launched in 2017, and the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be launched in 2018, as these were primarily designed to find planets. The James Webb Space Telescope will allow scientists to see if there is a planet out there that has the chemical fingerprint that suggests it could support life.
"We believe we're very, very close in terms of technology and science to actually finding the other Earth and our chance to find signs of life on another world," Sara Seager, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said.