Likely spurred by the recent media mainstreaming of the UFO phenomenon, and the Pentagon's unsurprisingly unremarkable report on the matter released last week, NASA has posted a new UFO FAQ that is clear, concise, and, er, grounded in science. Here it is in its entirety:
Does NASA search for extraterrestrial life?
One of NASA's key goals is the search for life in the universe. To date, NASA has yet to find any credible evidence of extraterrestrial life; however, NASA has long been exploring the solar system and beyond to help us answer fundamental questions, including whether we are alone in the universe. The agency's astrobiology program focuses on the origins, evolution, and distribution of life beyond Earth. From studying water on Mars, probing promising "oceans worlds," such as Titan and Europa, to looking for biosignatures in the atmospheres of our cosmic neighborhood and planets outside our solar system, NASA's science missions are working together with a goal to find unmistakable signs of life beyond Earth.
Is there a possibility of life beyond Earth?
There is a possibility and indeed a probability of life beyond Earth. Science is driven by the desire to better understand the unknown – but science is ultimately a matter of evidence, and we have not yet detected extraterrestrial life. We do, however, continue to look.
Do intelligent aliens exist?
Between research at the SETI Institute, analysis of Martian meteorites, recent findings of methane within the Mars atmosphere and other similar studies, there is no known evidence for life elsewhere, intelligent or otherwise. However, one of NASA's key goals is the search for life in the universe. We lead the U.S. government's search for extraterrestrial life, be it close to home, on the planets or moons of our solar system, or deeper into space.
How does NASA search for life?
NASA's search for life is a multifaceted approach. NASA's astrobiology research strategy focuses on three basic questions: How does life begin and evolve? Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? How do we search for life in the universe? Over the past 50 years, astrobiologists have uncovered a myriad of clues to answering these big questions.
The agency's search for life also includes using missions such as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and Hubble Space Telescope, to search for habitable exoplanets. Missions like the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will try to spot biosignatures in atmospheres around other planets – for example, spotting oxygen and carbon dioxide in other atmospheres, could suggest that an exoplanet supports plants and animals like ours does.
Does NASA search for technosignatures?
Technosignatures are a specific type of biosignature, which is defined as any detectable sign of extant or extinct life. Technosignatures are signs of technology that we can use to infer the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe – such as searches for extraterrestrial intelligence via narrow-band radio signals or pulsed lasers. The term SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) often is used synonymously with the search for technosignatures.
NASA does fund research into technosignatures, but not for ground-based, radio-telescope searches due to NASA's policy of supporting astrophysical research using space-based assets.
We also funded a Topical Workshops, Symposia, and Conference to develop a research agenda to prioritize and guide future theoretical and observational studies of non-radio technosignatures, and to draft a publishable report that can serve as the basis for building a library of technosignatures.
Why does NASA search for other biosignatures instead of just technosignatures?
Given that a planet might support life for billions of years before such intelligent life evolves to create technology that can be spotted from other solar systems – our own planet has only been creating detectable technosignatures for a little over a century, for example – we have a much better chance of finding life by looking at a broad spectrum of biosignatures.
Does NASA search for or study Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs)?
NASA does not actively search for UAPs. However, through our Earth-observing satellites, NASA collects extensive data about Earth's atmosphere, often in collaboration with the other space agencies of the world. While these data are not specifically collected to identify UAPs or alien technosignatures, they are publicly available and anyone may use them to search the atmosphere.
While NASA doesn't actively search for UAPs, if we learn of UAPs, it would open up the door to new science questions to explore. Atmospheric scientists, aerospace experts, and other scientists could all contribute to understanding the nature of the phenomenon. Exploring the unknown in space is at the heart of who we are.
(via Daily Grail)