A £1.4 billion probe will be sent into space in a few days on an eight-year voyage to seek signs of life on other planets in our solar system.
The spacecraft, however, will not journey to adjacent destinations such as Mars. Instead, it will launch into outer space to examine Jupiter’s far-flung ice moons. This marks the beginning of a new era in the search for extraterrestrial life.
Researchers from four of the world’s leading institutions have joined forces to investigate the origins of life on Earth and look for additional areas in the universe where biological processes are similar to our own.
On Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, the universities of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, Harvard, and Chicago in the United States, and ETH Zürich in Switzerland announced the formation of the Origins Federation.
“We want to see if there are any areas around Jupiter where life could have originated.” According to mission project scientist Olivier Witasse, we must find a place that has both liquid water and internal energy.
“We have good reasons to believe that there is more water than on Earth with Jupiter’s icy moons,” he continued.
Didier Queloz, the initiative’s leader and a professor at both Cambridge and ETH, declared, “I believe that life is embedded into the laws of physics of the universe.” He was a co-discoverer of the first exoplanet, which is a planet that orbits a star other than the sun, in the 1990s.
The results could be revolutionary. If life has independently evolved twice within our own solar system, it is likely to exist throughout the galaxy.