Bursting the bubble of many who are hoping for some real life sci-fi, a couple scientists involved in the Philae lander’s historic mission have come forward to break some bad news — a distant comet may not harbor tiny aliens, after all.
And even if it did, no one seems willing to finance another mission to find out.
This rather disappointing news came after many scientists — including those involved in the mission — have openly suggested that comet 67P, now home to the Philae lander and being orbited by the Rosetta spacecraft, has shown evidence of alien life, the Telegraph reported.
Rosetta has been following the comet for 10 years and shot the Philae lander at the speeding space rock in November. Incredibly, it landed, but went dark soon after, waking up last month as the comet neared the sun, ABC News added. Philae has been studying the comet since it landed.
And the data the lander has beamed back has suggested to Professor Monica Grady, involved in its design, that alien life there is “highly unlikely.” Rosetta project scientist Dr. Matt Taylor was similarly skeptical, calling the possibility “pure speculation” and also “unlikely.”
The chances of actually figuring out who’s right — the skeptics or believers — is slim, however. Rosetta and the Philae lander aren’t capable of finding direct evidence, and a plan to include alien life exploration in Philae’s mission was laughed at, the Independent reported.
“I wanted to include a very inexpensive life-detection experiment. At the time it was thought this was a bizarre proposition,” said astronomer and astrobiologist Chandra Wickramasinghe — he helped plan the mission 15 years ago.
The professor believes that people, and science, aren’t ready to start thinking space is full of aliens. Space agencies likely won’t seriously start looking for evidence they exist for a while.
“Five hundred years ago it was a struggle to have people accept that the Earth was not the center of the universe. After that revolution our thinking has remained Earth-centered in relation to life and biology. It’s deeply ingrained in our scientific culture and it will take a lot of evidence to kick it over.”
The detractors of the alien theory only provided this explanation as to why: the comet is probably too inhospitable. But those who believe in it have some solid info to back up their faith.
Basically, Wickramasinghe and colleague Dr. Max Wallis contend that the Philae lander has shown signs of a black crust, underlined with water-filled craters; organic debris is scattered along the surface of these “lakes.” Further, micro-life likely needs liquid water to get on the comet, filling the cracks in its ice and snow. It becomes more active as the comet nears the sun.
Chandra said the Philae lander revealed signs of material “spewing out” of the ice cracks, as well. These tiny organisms, he believes, are somehow involved in building 67P’s dark crust, which is boiled off by the sun’s heat, then “constantly replenished.”
Sure, it’s not as exciting as little green men. But as the Philae lander has discovered, space is a mysterious place.
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