The Jupiter's moon, Europa, as seen by the ocean, sees NASA's Galileo spaceship.
Source: NASA / JPL-Caltech / SETI Institute
MOFFETT FIELD, CA. – Government agencies may no longer have a monopoly on life-hunting space missions.
Groundbreaking initiatives that are already scanning the heavens for possible signals from distant foreign civilizations are considering the search for E.T. on worlds close to home, said founder Yuri Milner.
"We are thinking very seriously about solar-based initiatives," Milner said on Sunday (November 4) during the seventh annual Breakthrough Prize at the NASA Ames Research Center. "We think that in our foundation there is something that we can do, financed from private funds that will complement government-funded projects?" [6 Most Likely Places for Alien Life in the Solar System]
Milner, a billion-dollar technology investor, set groundbreaking initiatives with his wife Julia in 2015. The organization is already funding the $ 100 million project Breakthrough Listen, which hunts for smart aliens pings, and 100 million dollars for Breakthrough Starshot, which aims to develop a miniature spacecraft for laser navigation to study nearby non-planetary systems.
Potential Groundbreaking mission to the destination in our solar system would probably also have a budget in this area; Milner said the program funds are an order of magnitude lower than what governments can provide. (From the perspective: a Mars rover from NASA 2020, which will search for traces of the ancient red planet, has a price of about 2.1 billion dollars.)
"But we can take more risks," Milner said.
So where can this alleged Breakthrough Mission go? Milner cited the Moon of Jupiter Europe and the satellite of Saturn Enceladus as both possibilities, both of which have oceans of liquid water under ice crusts, as well as Venus.
Venus may seem like a strange choice, considering that its surface is dry and hot enough to melt lead. But the conditions in the clouds, about 25 miles (40 kilometers), are much more life-friendly, Milner noted.
Milner also mentioned Mars as a potential residence for life, but he said that the Red Planet is a less "realistic" goal of the Breakthrough.
"On Mars you probably have to go deep underground, many people believe – probably meters, if not dozens of meters, to see something potentially interesting," said Milner. "And on Mars, most experts agree that if you find something, it will most likely be historical artifacts of life rather than a living organism, but you never know.
Inclusion of Enceladus to the list should not be a big surprise. In November last year, Milner said ground-breaking initiatives are exploring the possibility of launching a probe that will look for signs of life in a vapor of steam and other materials from the southern polar region of Enceladus. These things come from a buried ocean 313 miles wide (504 km), say scientists.
The Sunday ceremony honored the Breakthrough Prize recipients, awarded annually for groundbreaking research in the fields of physics, mathematics and natural sciences. Seven $ 3 million – the richest in science – prizes were released this year, along with a handful of other prizes, bringing a total of $ 22 million.
The book Mike & # 39; a Wall & # 39; and about the search for an alien life "Out There" will be published on November 13 by Grand Central Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us @Spacedotcom or Facebook. Originally published on Space.com.