Over the last 50 years, experienced and serious scientists have put forward numerous theories suggesting the possibility that probes sent from extraterrestrial civilizations could theoretically be located within the solar system or near the Earth. A significant body of published theoretical research in this area already exists in books and peer-reviewed journals. What has been missing, however, is the funding needed to apply careful scientific methodology and suitably sophisticated and accurate instrumentation in order to rigorously test hypotheses of near-Earth visitation by extraterrestrial intelligence (e.g., the presence of Von Neumann-type interstellar probes). Conventional SETI and Optical SETI (OSETI) search strategies both focus on distant stars with resulting poor signal-to-noise ratio and no data despite over 40 years of effort. In the absence of results from these conventional approaches, the logic for widening the search strategy and bringing adequate scientific and financial resource to the near-Earth search is increasingly compelling. NASA-JPL engineer Scot Stride has highlighted this approach in a recent lead article in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, referring to this approach as the Search for Extraterrestrial Visitation (SETV) using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology and a wide range of optical, radio and other instrumentation. It is encouraging and exciting that the handful of European scientists who have taken the lead in carrying out careful scientific SETV research have already obtained data that is interesting and puzzling and does not seem to indicate known natural or manmade sources. While far from conclusive - the possibility of yet unknown natural phenomena must be rigorously excluded before the slightest possibility of an extraterrestrial source could be seriously considered - it is encouraging to have data that presents a strong case for further study. This presents an opportunity for ESA to take the lead in vigorously supportunity for ESA to take the lead in vigorously supporting a programme of rigorous and coordinated SETV research.
- Pub Date:
- August 2001
- Extraterrestrial Intelligence