Congress Wants to Give NASA $10 Million to Search for Alien Life

VLA - Very Large Array radio telescope operated by the NRAO National Radio Astronomical Observatory, near Socorro, New Mexico, USA

It seems recent mainstream media excitement surrounding UFOs and extraterrestrial life may have encouraged lawmakers in Congress to want to dig deeper. Now a proposed $10 million annual budget may revive a defunct NASA program to search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) that was abandoned some 25 years ago.

In the early 1990s, NASA was appropriated a budget that included $100 million over the course of a decade to look for signs of life in the cosmos. Employing the Arecibo and Goldstone telescopes, NASA’s SETI program aimed to study 1000 different stars, and compared itself to Columbus’ search for the new world.

That was until Congress cut the program after a single year, deriding it as a waste of money that turned up few results – or “little green fellows” as they were referred to.

But now, a chain of astronomical discoveries and the disclosure of a black budget Pentagon UFO program may have led to a renewed interest in bringing SETI back to life.

A recently proposed budget for the agency asks for $10 million dollars for each of the fiscal years 2018 and 2019 to look for “technosignatures such as radio transmissions, in order to meet the NASA objective to search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution and future in the universe.”

So, what exactly might be behind this new curiosity and willingness to spend tens of millions on a search that’s already being carried out by other organizations?

It’s unclear whether one can pinpoint a specific person or event, but there is conjecture as to whether a certain Senator’s interest may have been the catalyst, much like Sen. Harry Reid’s curiosity that sparked the $22 million appropriations for the Pentagon program.

Also, a number of recent events that sparked the media’s interest in astrophysics may have subsequently spilled over into the government’s curiosity. Take for example, the fluctuations in light emitted from Tabby’s Star, which led scientists to entertain the possibility of an alien megastructure orbiting KIC 8462852. Or Oumuamua, the first intergalactic object observed entering our solar system that defied the behavior and dimensions of most interstellar asteroids.

Then there were the fast radio bursts that came from a galaxy, consequently named FRB-121102, which some scientists believed could have been an advanced alien civilization’s attempt to communicate with us.

But Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer at SETI attributes the excitement to the fact that NASA’s Kepler satellite continues to discover hundreds of exoplanets orbiting stars in their habitable zones, of which many are likely to have rocky surfaces capable of harboring life.

Shostak’s SETI project, originally founded by Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, was recently awarded $100 million over the course of a decade from Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, as part of his Breakthrough Initiative with the late Stephen Hawking. Their work has yet to yield any definitive proof of extraterrestrial life, though their efforts may be doubled with an equally funded NASA SETI program.

But according to scientists at NASA, $10 million is just a drop in the bucket, unless it continues over the course of many years. A continuous flow of money would allow scientists time to build the specialized tools necessary for properly observing technosignatures.

And while it may be small at first, any amount of money appropriated toward the search for extraterrestrial life is exciting and should be encouraged. Even if you believe we’ve already found a solution to the Fermi Paradox.

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