As a planetary scientist, just thinking about it gives me a thrill.
By the time our first spacecraft—probably robotic—head for the nearest stars, we’ll already have an enormous amount of information from ground-based and space based-telescopes about their panoply of planets.
Whether those stars harbor Hot Jupiters, Super Earths, or icy outer ocean worlds like those in our own solar system, we are certain to be dazzled by the diversity we encounter.
Wouldn't it be incredible if the first pictures beamed back of a distant Earthlike planet showed city lights stretching along an alien ocean shore? Unlikely, perhaps—but why not dream?
Here's how Planetary Society Members answered...
Click through to read the full submission and comment.
What do you want to see next in space exploration?
We all wonder what tomorrow will bring, if we will destroy ourselves or venture to the stars. I personally believe humans will have a bright future. A future were we might not all get along in the end, but be unified ad s species to male a difference upon ourselves and the environments we interact with. I can image great cities on the ice caps, in deserts, in the ocean, ... more »
The possibilities are endless from mining rich asteroids and manufacturing in a zero-G environment to finding new life and exploring totally new environments and establishing new settlements to spread our wings among the stars.
I have no idea what awaits us in the countless solar systems ringed with planets across our galaxy. I am sure whatever I can imagine won't even come close to the reality that we will find. I hope we discover new life finding out we are not alone in the Cosmos. It would be nice to find some friends and finally get our species out of the cradle and out ... more »
On some distant planet there may be great oceans brimming with life so diverse they would put our greatest coral reefs to shame. Or perhaps there are lifeless planets with beautiful and magnificent landscapes sculpted by great geological forces. However, what could be most astounding is the impact such discoveries will have on us, how they will capture our imaginations and lead us all to a higher calling in our ... more »
I hope I live to see the day when we find other intelligent life in the universe. I don't expect it would necessarily evolve the way we did along physical lines, but I really want to know how similar or different such life would be in a psychological sense. How would non-terrestrial life think and feel? What would their culture be like? Do evolutionary processes - survival of the fittest ... more »
What do I imagine awaits us? In a word, variety. Which seems redundant, or perhaps "the easy way out." But there's little doubt it's true. Perhaps a solar system just like ours. Perhaps one crammed close to its star and therefore burning hot. Perhaps one farther flung, and icy. Perhaps all, and everything in between.
And maybe, if we dare let our minds wander, there will be something stunning to look ... more »
An earth size moon orbiting a gas giant in the habitable zone, could support life. If the moon is what made Earth have life. Then a tidally locked moon of a gas giant may be the more common way a life supporting world happens. Gas giants could possibly have several life supporting moons.... Tidally locked, one face would always be turned to the planet, with the sun lighting half directly, ... more »
I can easily imagine an extra terrestrial society made of corundum co-bonded life forms who would LOOOOVE our robotic exploration craft with a bit of iodine sauce and chew them happily as peace offering desserts. At the end of Sagan's time I sent a message to Mars on one of the microchips, I think, saying "P.C. users taste like chicken," to better inform alien life forms. All in the name ... more »
We may find that Io isn't the only place with a distinctly sulfurous odor. I'm picturing a planet (codename: Cassavetes)where sulfur doesn't only eject from volcanoes, but also lies in deep, molten oceans and sulfur vapor forms vast weather systems.
Cassavetes is parked in a tidally-locked orbit around a nearby star and lies so close to its neighbor that there is plenty of heat to disperse atmospherically to its unlit side ... more »
Within the next 30 years, large space-baded visible/IR interferometers equipped with imaging spectrometers will most likely detect "exo-vegetation" on earth-like worlds. Identification of the "red edge" feature of vegetation, or a shifted "red edge" feature, dependent on the type of star, will probably be the first major discovery of a habitable biosphere on another planet outside of our own solar system.
From what we know of planetary science, the life of stars, and evolution, I calculate - ROUGHLY - that human civilization comprises about 0.000125 of the age of our planet. Maybe we can last longer, but there are no guarantees. So, finding like creatures would be a WILD stroke of luck! More likely we will find a world with lichen on its rocks, or prehistoric algae floating in the seas. ... more »
I visualize interstellar travel enabling us to view a relatively new planetary system that has a planet that will eventually be like Earth. We can therefore see where we came from. What I expect is that it will have a partially reduced atmosphere (Evidence shows Earth had more than 10% of its nitrogen as ammonia at 3.2 Gy BP) and what we will see is how life got underway. We ... more »
If but one single iota of the smallest, most primitive form of life is found on another world, and we are assured beyond any shadow of a doubt it was not a "passenger" upon a space-bound craft of space exploration sent by us, it will change the world forever. Entire theologies and philosophies will have no choice but to evolve with the new information, that life is not the private ... more »
My vision of exploring exoplanets is that we won't really know what we find because we will rely too much on our own experiences. There may be something alive there that we totally diregard because it is nothing like us. We need to work on universal definitions of life, time, etc. before we can totally understand what we are looking for. It mey hurt the human ego, but it needs ... more »
I envision a future in which more than half of humanity resides somewhere other than on Earth. I’m sure we will eventually populate our solar system, terraform Mars and perhaps Venus, build space colonies and mine asteroids as there will be economic reasons to do so, but I am doubtful that any more than just a few of us will ever physically travel to planets around other stars. My doubt ... more »
For me the movie "Contact", excited, and said it all; from the wonder in making a radio connection with an alien sentient species, to how we "meet" them, to returning to our home planet in one's own lifetime, just like it would happen here on Earth--ie. discover a new friend; make a date; meet up and return home to savour the wonder, pleasure and joy of our new found experience. ... more »