There are a myriad of different programs looking for life out beyond our planets. Missions to Mars looking for water and bacteria, probes to Titan, Europa and Enceladus, the James Webb Space Telescope searching explanets for biosignatures or even SETI to find extraterrestrial radio signals. All of these are well and good, but they are for sure long-term projects which pose significant logistical challenges.
Tangible progress in these fields could be many years away, and success of new life, while certainly it will happen one day, there is no forecast of when we might hope to achieve this.
BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS! We will probably discover a completely new, alien ecosystem right here on our provably habitable and only partially explored home planet. We have only explored about .4% of the Earths total mass, and we might find out some crazy things if only we try looking….
1. Inside the Earths Massive Underground Super-Ocean
This one may actually turn out to mean we’ve never even touched upon the earths largest ecosystem. Geologists are increasingly certain that a massive ocean, larger than all of the water on the earths surface combined, lies deep underneath us.
It’s not unrealistic that earths super-ocean may contain life. Life started in the water on planet earth, whats to say it didn’t start (or at least migrate) deep underground as well? What we’re talking about here is a completely unexplored underground ecosystem that we have NO IDEA is down there, larger than the oceans of Europa and Enceladus combined. For any lover of exploration, this is a dream come true!
The only trouble is that in some ways, it actually seems much easier to travel through 390 million miles of space than it is to go 6 miles of solid rock. The Japanese Chikyu vessel is being constructed over the next 10 years to allow humans to directly access the earths mantle for the first time, and they will be digging directly through the ocean floor to get to it.
This mission may give us evidence of life under the surface, only time and human willpower will tell.
2. In the Earths Upper Atmosphere.
In September 2013, British molecular biologist Milton Wainwright flew a high-altitude balloon over England and found something he didn’t expect to see: algae floating 17 miles above Earth’s surface.
Nobody is quite sure how it got there, and until we have a solid theory we have no reason to assume that these algae are the only life forms we’ll find in the skies of Earth.
One might assume though that it has something to do with the recent discovery of Biological Life manifesting out of non-living materials spontaneously, and the fact that most space-dust is teeming with biological life. You can read more about that here.
3. On the Ocean Floor.
It is an accurate statistic (and commonly-cited nowadays) that less than 5% of the ocean’s floor has been explored. If we were to look at the ocean floor as if it were land, (which technically it is) and realized that we still haven’t mapped over 95% of it… well how well-explored would we say it was?
Dry land only makes up 29% of Earths terrain, and the rest of the surface is hidden from us by massive amounts of water. We have no idea what is lurking at the deepest depths, though what we’ve already seen suggests that there is some REALLY incredible things we have yet to find.