NASA Says We Need a Plan for When We Discover Alien Life

The agency offers a framework to communicate and confirm extraterrestrial life.
Alien Evidence

NASA's top scientists have a provocative message to share with the scientific community: They need a plan for when and if extraterrestrial life is discovered.

James Green, chief scientist at the agency, wrote a new article in Nature. It urged researchers to develop a framework for reporting evidence about aliens. The authors stress the importance of communicating extraterrestrial findings clearly and expressing any ambiguity in early evidence.

It is vital to have a community discussion about how to communicate information in a topic that is complex, diverse and high-potentially sensationalized as space science life-detection goals become more prominent. Read the paper.

CoLD Storage

Green and his coauthors have proposed a confidence in life detection (CoLD), scale to help assess any evidence that may be found. The scale is a ladder-like structure that contains seven levels. Each level represents a benchmark which must be met before we can move on to the next stage.



Level one, for example, would be the discovery of life signatures like biological molecules. The second would be proving that life signs are not caused by contamination from Earth. The final step in the CoLD scale is scientists declaring that extraterrestrial life has been confirmed.

A scale such as this will allow us to understand where we stand in terms the search for life in specific locations and the capabilities of missions, Green stated in a NASA news release.


Collaborative Communication

The paper authors emphasize that the scale is only a starting point for larger conversations with scientists and science communicators on the best way to proceed if we find evidence of alien life.

This news comes as a result of the launch of the James Webb telescope and the Perseverance Mars Rover searching for life on Mars.



Mary Voltek, coauthor of the study, and head of NASAs Astrobiology Program stated in the release that the search for life beyond Earth's surface requires wide participation by the scientific community. We can all work together to find clues that we are not the only ones looking.

READ MORE: Are we alone in the universe? NASA calls for a new framework [NASA]

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