This generation will discover traces of alien life: NASA publishes extraterrestrial life rating scale
NASA scientists are all but convinced that we will soon discover alien life forms, which is why they have issued a provocative but deadly serious message to the entire scientific community.
There needs to be a plan for when that happens, and NASA's proposal is to start with a scheme that allows science to determine what and how to communicate in close encounters with alien life forms.
We will find alien life forms
Some of the U.S. Space Agency's top scientists have decided to use Nature, one of the world's most influential and widely circulated scientific journals, to issue the call to the scientific community.
The article - which also bears the signature of James Green, NASA's chief science officer - begins rather eloquently. "Our generation could realistically be the one to discover evidence of life beyond Earth," is the opening line of the appeal, "and such a privilege invokes definite responsibilities."
So there is a need, according to NASA, for the scientific community to establish a shared scheme within which to report information about possible alien life forms.
At the heart of the matter is the need to communicate in a correct and clear way every discovery about aliens and to establish clear boundaries in what could be the expectations of the public in that sense.
What must be absolutely avoided, continues the article, is that the news that will arrive on the existence of alien life forms will be disclosed in an ambiguous or inaccurate way, especially in the early stages. That's why a precise seven-level scheme is proposed that will allow the information to be placed within a framework shared by the entire international scientific community, starting, of course, with NASA.
The Seven Levels of Alien Life
Green and the paper's co-authors propose a "confidence of life detection" (CoLD) scale to support the search and detection of extraterrestrial life forms.
The scale is composed of seven progressive levels, each of which constitutes a parameter to be respected before moving on to the next.
Level one includes discoveries of, for example, biological molecules, while the second level concerns life forms resulting from contamination by life on Earth. From the fourth level upwards we find the biological traces that are independent from terrestrial life, the aliens that we have been looking for since the time of Sagan's message.
The seven levels of the CoLD scale are also a methodological guide available to scientists: they explicitly indicate the hypotheses to be discarded before proceeding to the next step. For example, the coherence of biological traces with the reference environment must be evaluated: humans are considerably increasing their presence beyond the Earth's atmosphere, so the risk of contamination is real. And NASA knows this better than anyone.
So we are officially ready to actively search for evidence that we are not alone in the Universe, the challenge has just begun.