Congress Is Planning To Spend Millions On Search For Aliens, UFOs

Aliens SETIkellepics / Pixabay

A new bill in the House of Representatives related to NASA’s funding proposes $10 million a year to search for signs of life out there.

A climate denier may be the reason the S-word is back in vogue in Congress. Oh yeah, not that S-word, the other one: SETI.

That’s right, Congress is talking about spending a bunch of money on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (or SETI) for the first time in 25 years.

In 1992, a huge NASA SETI initiative was launched with the construction of two radio telescopes (one in Puerto Rico and the other in California) to comb the cosmos for signals from alien civilizations. Just a year later, however, Nevada Sen. Richard Bryan shut it down, and “SETI” became an unmentionable. [Greetings, Earthlings! 8 Ways Aliens Could Contact Us]

“[Bryan] made it clear to the administration that if they came back with SETI in their budget again, it wouldn’t be good for the NASA budget,” renowned astronomer Jill Tarter told Marina Koren of The Atlantic. “So, we instantly became the four-letter S-word that you couldn’t say at headquarters anymore, and that has stuck for quite a while.”

(Tarter was the director of the SETI Institute for 35 years before stepping down in 2012.)

Now, the U.S. House of Representatives has proposed a bill that includes $10 million in NASA funding for the next two years “to search for technosignatures, such as radio transmissions, in order to meet the NASA objective to search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe.” Such technosignatures would come in the form of radio waves that have the telltale features of being produced by TV- or radio-type technologies. An intelligent civilization could also produce those signals intentionally to communicate with other civilizations like ours.

“If it passes, it would definitely be a sea-change in Congressional attitude since Sen. Bryan terminated NASA’s SETI program, the High Resolution Microwave Survey, in 1993,” Tarter told Live Science in an email.

She added that the funding seems to be an extension of the efforts of Rep. Lamar Smith, R–Texas, to bring attention to the search for life beyond Earth when he was the chairman of the House Science Committee. (Smith, who announced that he will retire at the end of his term this year, is a known denier of human-caused climate change.)

If the legislation clears the House and passes the Senate, the result would be huge. “It allows for new instrumentation to be built, and data collected and analyzed at scale, by a global community,” Tarter said of the $10 million.

Of course, the hunt for intelligence beyond Earth has not stopped, as private companies and other organizations have funded it, but a buy-in from the federal government is a big deal. [7 Huge Misconceptions about Aliens]

“You need to remember that this is an authorization bill, not an appropriations bill. Even if it passes, the appropriators may not provide any SETI funding in their bill. But if they do, that would be a very big deal,” said Tarter, who was the basis for the heroine Ellie Arroway in Carl Sagan’s novel “Contact” and in the adapted movie by the same name.

Tarter is admittedly ecstatic about the possibility of such a federal focus on SETI. But you don’t become the director of the SETI Institute by keeping your feet on the ground.

“Bring it on! But don’t stop there,” Tarter said about the potential funding. “Earthlings everywhere are fascinated with this search and care about the answer. So, we should create an international endowment for searching for intelligent life beyond Earth. The backers should be private individuals, enlightened corporations, U.S. federal agencies and agencies from other governments around the world.”

She added, “By smoothing out the funding roller coaster that has characterized this research field from the beginning, it will be possible to attract the best and brightest minds with the best ideas from everywhere, and commit to the long-term search efforts that might be required for success.”

Are alien greetings just around the corner? Tarter said we have the technology now to search for more distant and fainter signals in ways we haven’t tried before. “But that doesn’t guarantee success in the ‘near future.’ The cosmos is vast, and we may not yet be looking in the right way, although we are doing the best job possible with what we now know.”

The “correct perspective on timing,” Tarter said, is summed up in a line from a paper published in 1959 in the journal Nature by Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison: “‘The probability of success is difficult to estimate; but if we never search, the chance of success is zero,’” Tarter said.

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24 Comments on "Congress Is Planning To Spend Millions On Search For Aliens, UFOs"

  1. Might as well look for signs of intelligent life elsewhere because there are no such signs on Capitol Hill.

  2. What makes you think they aren’t eavesdropping on us?

  3. ?I think you are wearing the tinfoil hat if you think life is not plentiful in the universe. Perhaps 100 years ago you could make that argument. All recent evidence strongly suggest the laws of our particular universe happen to be designed for carbon based life, life is a mathematical inevitability that maximizes entropy production in suitable environments, and that the number of habitable worlds where life could arise in our galaxy (let alone the universe) is greater than the number of sand grains on all beaches on earth. It is highly likely (even from panspermia alone), life is plentiful in the galaxy and universe. Intelligent life and life which outlasts its technological infancy to produce radio waves for a substantial period of time is probably far less likely but capable of being detected with improvements in technology. The lack of any such signals is not becuase they are absent…it is because our technology is not yet capable of detecting radionoise from even the nearest possible such civilizations. All current SETI methods assume a much higher level of technological advancement than our own directly aiming high energy signals at our planet…this is an unlikely scenario. It would be stupid not to find evidence for civilization at our level or technology (and find it soon) to learn from their mistakes and successes, before we enter probably the long list of dead-end civilizations. The likelihood of life and intelligent life is not anymore some UFO conspiracy theory. It is very promising real science, and luddites like yourself need to wake up. Given the odds, it is unlikely we’ll ever meet them, but it would be dumb not to learn from other examples of what we are.

  4. Don’t drink Koolaid from the FOX network and I don’t swallow the crap from the government since the single bullet theory during the latter part of JFK and the beginning part of LBJ. The advancement from science you are talking about (a think tank) is not the responsibility of the government – it is the responsibility of corporate America. The government’s sole responsibility is to protect this nation from foreign invasion and negotiating treaties. Read the Constitution. Next thing you will be proclaiming is that we actually put a man on the moon. Let’s see the only things I can think of from the space race (which I can use) is a pen that writes in zero gravity and Velcro – come to think of it, I don’t really need those. How much further humanity would be if we assisted one another with healthcare, proper nutrition, democracy, education, freedom, liberty, rebuilding our infrastructure, – the list goes on. Scientist can develop just as much by people working in harmony than wasting money on a pipe dream that few will feel the affects and even fewer care.

  5. You’re sense of indignation is misplaced. Perhaps you are drinking the Fox propanganda koolaid. Unless we invest in our brightest talent and give them challenging projects, our economy will continue to stagnate and decline through lack of innovation and skills. Our fiat money is just paper…and means very little if there are no skilled, educated, and empowered individuals who produce the goods and services that give that money any meaning. If you want to whine, you should complain about our military budget. Our military budget is over 600 billion dollars (thats $2000/per year/per American) wasted blowing up brown people for their resources and breeding a new generation of terrorists abroad. The SETI scientist are asking reasonable and interesting questions. Life is highly likely and probably multiple examples of intelligent and technological life are present in our universe given the odds. Our technology is not capable of detecting life at our level of technological advancement even from our nearest stars, but could be capable of this with reasonable funding of such an important question. Such project (like the moon shot) would produce the kinds of technology we need to take care of our planet. Funding science is a positive sum game. GIving money to banksters, war profiteers, and big pharm companies, rather than to funding open source science at our universities, is a zero sum or negative sum game and always has been. Its sad you are brainwashed into attacking the kinds of people who are most likely to help you save our planet, and worship the fraudsters who are bringing us to oblivion, and only know how to point fingers at things they don’t understand. If we spend 50% instead of 5% of our GDP on science, we could have 100 years of progress within a decade, and have many solutions to our problems, rather than throwing the money down the drain. You are complaining about the wrong people.

  6. Of what possible value would it be to know that intelligence existed somewhere out there hundreds of thousands of years ago?

  7. Why, so Trump can stop them from immigrating?

  8. What makes you think aliens want us mere humans eavesdropping in on them. Do you really think nature would make the same mistake twice of creating sentient beings? Let’s worry about our own planet and leave the other planets in a state of peace! Hey, how about you paying my 3 cents and I’ll be happy.

  9. Oh let’s see: World Hunger, World Peace, Social Injustice and yet the U.S. spends four times the amount of money of all the other countries combined on the military. It’s kinda like going to the Superbowl shouting we’re number one and having no one to play against.This smells of a boondoggle – plain and simple! Just another way to waste my hard earned money. Wake up and smell the coffee – the government is not your friend. Just think of humanity’s advancement, if we discovered our innerspace. Oh by the way, I’m not against science – I’m a scientist. What I am against is government hiding behind science in order to waste humanity’s efforts.

  10. It is never a waste of money to fund our brightest scientist to develop leading edge technologies. It is a waste of money to spend on oil subsitdies and wars and taxbreaks for the rich who don’t need it. Our country is falling apart BECAUSE we don’t fund projects like this. Austerity never works. Money is just paper and means nothing if you do not have an educated and skilled workforce that give that otherwise meaningless paper any meaning. Funding cutting edge technological projecgts (this would cost 3 cents per American) leads to many spinoffs that produce real wealth, not just redistribute weealth from poor to rich which is the only thing austerity accomplishes. Bill Gates would never had a chance to build a viable personal computer without the spinoff technologies that came from our taxpayer funded space race to the moon. This is a good use of money that produces real (non-zero sum) wealth through technological growth. The kinds of technologies we would need to develop to eavesdrop for radiosignals on even the nearest stars would greatly enhance our detection methods and have many spinoffs in communications, medical imaging, and computer science. Pushing the edge to what is possible always has many advantages for us technologically. We should welcome such difficult projects and make sure our best and brightest are using their brains to make such things possible. That is a much better use of societies capital than wasting our smartest talent at Goldman Sachs figuring out new and more clever ways of robbing Grandma of her savings.

  11. The seti scam was followed by a quack who wanted 10 million to show a
    microwave oven and copper cones can be combined to create a working
    emdrive for exploring the heavens

  12. 10 million for tin foil hats.

  13. 10million, are you serious? That’s only 3 cents per American. The budget for a dedicated eavesdropping SETI given the number of habitable planets should be much larger. Our current ability to “eavesdrop” on ET signals is dismal and pretty much nonexistent….our radiotelescopes are so wimpy they could not even pick up an alien version of I luv Lucy from our nearest star, alpha centauri.
    The payoff would be huge for the nation which is smart enough to find the first signal(s). Even a long dead technological civilization at our level could provide invaluable information on parallel or undeveloped technologies of our own civilization and give us invaluable and critical information to prevent our own demise from global warming, AI, or nuclear wars as a species. Its well worth the money, and could possibly be the most valuable use of our money if we found such signals in the long run. Our current funding and development is only capable of detecting a much more technologically advanced civilization directly aiming powerful signals at our planet…an unlikely scenario, as we don’t even know if most technological civilization can get beyond their technological infancy without destroying themselves in most circumstances. Developing the technology and supporting our best scientist to develop the technology capable of eavesdropping on alien civilization is likely to be much more fruitful. Even the absence of signals would tell us a lot about the likelihood of intelligence, and the kinds of technology needed to amplify such weak signals would be useful in many other areas.

  14. Billions of channels have been scanned and now ufo hunters need a lot of hand holding to overcome what they thought was their truth. Next jumpers will demand funding to modify their tv remotes to jump to a parallel world.

  15. All the hints from sightings, ancient records etc suggest the Aliens are out there and watching us, however allowing us to develop. The question is whether we would be welcome out there, our rapaciousness, hatred for anyone different, enthusiasm to conquer nations and rape their resources, enthusiasm to destroy our own biosphere when in reality we do not need to apart from maintaining a terminally flawed ideology and economic system and some corrupt wealthy individuals and groups in power.
    They would not be using Radio for communication, too limited. Nor nuclear for power, too many issues, too bulky so don’t know what they are looking for, maybe relatively primitive planets that may use radio that we could possibly invade and help ourselves to their resources
    The money is being taken from the CO2 monitoring program
    https://climatecrocks.com/2018/05/10/blinding-me-with-no-science-trump-cancels-carbon-monitoring/

    Blinding Me With No Science. Trump Cancels Carbon Monitoring

  16. So true and spot on !

  17. This will be a great waste of money when the money can be used to help the nation instead of wasting it on fanciful dreams. Dumber and dumber.

  18. Stephen Borghese | May 10, 2018, 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |

    i dont know why you think science is bad. oh wait. you think the world is 6000 years old and don’t want anyone to mess with your beliefs by showing people anything that’s science. the money spent on this is a mere drop in the bucket when you look at the big picture. and the technology it will develop is important to humanity’s future. it is infrastructure. we need these dishes to watch the Chinese and Russian satellites

  19. Stephen Borghese | May 10, 2018, 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |

    its not for just aliens. its more antennas to listen to more satellites at the same time. it takes a big dish to listen to a tight beam if its not aimed at you.

  20. I encourage them to keep looking for signals but forget about the UFOs. Signals can be detected passively but UFOs can only be observed, from what I’ve seen of the so-called “real” ones, there’s probably no way we can shoot one down, nor should we want to. We should be nice to the UFOs, anyone smart enough to traverse interstellar space or travel inter-dimensionally is way beyond us primitive talking monkeys.

    Just read the comments on almost any political article on The Hill, we’re still slinging proverbial poop at each other for god’s sake. And a lot of commenters on both sides actually think that’s helpful somehow.

    I admire the aliens look but don’t touch policy, they’re just signposts letting us know they’re here so we know we have some evolving to do before they’ll feel safe enough to land on the White House lawn. Especially now.

  21. Money is cheap, just print more of it. Obama printed up 12 Trillion when he was in charge. Clinton, Bush and the bankers started the ball rolling, now it’s Trump’s turn.
    It dosen’t matter anymore, this demonic world is doomed.

  22. Great idea boneheads, waste 10 million a year looking for E.T. when our own country is literally falling apart!
    If there was ever any doubt that our “officials” in this country are stupid, it has now been proven that they are.

  23. This is a simple way to final declassify what some have suspected and most can come to terms with. Evangelicals need a lot of hand holding to overcome what they thought was their truth.

  24. Could we have a meteor hit the U.S. Capital and take care of the stupidity? Jesus Christ (oh wait, no need to add religion in the mix) but my God do you have to be stupid to work in Washington, D.C.? Of all the harebrained ideas – let’s not worry about the infrastructure in this country!

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