One of the vast unexplored regions around our planet has been turned to in the search for life. And this time, it will not be that difficult to find and prove. As scientists turn to the upper atmosphere for signs of extraterrestrial microbes, others are curious if this is the final exploration that will prove once and for all that we are not alone in the universe. The discovery will be one of the most down to Earth explorations into the prospect of alien life in space.
Though the study doesn’t expect to discover an advanced alien race, the very real examination of inner outer space will cover the prospect of extraterrestrial life hitching on to Earth’s atmosphere and possibly living there. The European Space Agency will, with any luck, discover life forms that have rained down on Earth and remained in the atmosphere. The filters attached to the craft will attempt to gather dust and possibly cosmic visitors catching a ride on the small particles Earth drifts through constantly. What are the chances of discovering life in this way? It’s actually fairly hard to tell since this will be the first real exploration of its kind. If life is discovered in the reaches just around the Earth, it will mean life could also theoretically exist on other planets such as Mars and in the Vacuum of space. This would go some way to lend credence to the “space seed” theory that Earth had originally been peppered by an unknown alien bacteria which multiplied and thrived on its surface before eventually evolving into the more complex species we see around us.
And from the price tag the boffins are proposing, it won’t be even close to the most expensive exploration of its kind. Costing less than the equivalent to $100,000 US dollars, if the project does indeed discover evidence alien life, the project will be a mere fraction of other programs of its type such as SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence).
Of course one of the major benefits of this program will be that unlike other space probes, the newest program will not require a rocket to get probes into space. Instead, the probe will rely on a massive balloon which will take it into space and expand as it reaches the upper atmosphere, gazing down on the planet below and collecting samples in space above the Earth. As the probe leaves the atmosphere it will look down on the Earth snatching up as much material as it can through air filters and then sending the samples back to Earth, guiding a retrieval team to it.
Cheaper experiments designed to look into the capabilities of cheaper probes through balloons into the upper atmosphere were made possible by an experiment designed in late 2009 to send a balloon higher into the atmosphere than ever expected before for only pennies of what a rocket to the same height would have cost. The project sent back pictures of Earth’s surface that wowed scientists and other viewers from around the globe.
So what advantages would there be to discovering life above Earth through a balloon? For one thing, the experiment will be cheap enough to repeat several times. And for another thing it may seem closer to home and less threatening to the public to know alien life has always been here rather than on some distant planet where the possibilities of it mingling may not be well known.