Our chances of meeting aliens just went up a billion times

We’ve seen some pretty amazing things in our lifetime – man walking on the moon, an end to polio, the rise of the internet and, most recently, the nooks and crannies of Pluto. But could we see the Holy Grail of space exploration? Could we finally discover life on other planet?

British cosmologist Stephen Hawking thinks there could be. And so does the Russian internet entrepreneur who has just committed $135 million to the biggest-ever search for intelligent extraterrestrial life.

The Breakthrough Listen initiative is a ten-year project that will scan the heavens using some of the biggest telescopes on Earth and searching far deeper into the universe than before for radio spectrum and laser signals.

At the launch of the project, Mr Hawking said, “In an infinite universe, there must be other occurrences of life. Somewhere in the cosmos, perhaps, intelligent life may be watching. Either way, there is no bigger question. It’s time to commit to finding the answer, to search for life beyond Earth. We must know.”

Britain’s astronomer royal, Martin Rees,  is one of the project leaders. He said our chances of finding intelligent life, aka aliens, had increase a billionfold thanks to technology and the discovery of billions of Earth-like planets in the Milky Way.

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Even with that giant leap in probability however, the chances of actually finding little green men aren’t great.

“It’s a huge gamble, of course, but the pay-off would be so colossal … even if the chance of success is small,” said Mr Rees.

“Is there life out there? We may not answer it but this gives a bigger chance that it may be answered in our lifetime,” he added.

New South Wales’ Parkes observatory will play a crucial role in “listening” to the universe by scanning radio waves.

If they were to find someone or something to make contact with, some important decisions need to made. Who would speak on behalf of planet Earth? (We’re voting for Hugh Jackman FYI). And what should they say?

Why is it that mankind is so fascinated with other worlds out there? What do you think should be the first words spoken to intelligent life forms on other planets?