LITTLE FERRY, NJ.., August 7, 1996 -- The search for intelligent life in space will be greatly bolstered by NASA's announcement that Mars may once have harbored life, according to a private group of space enthusiasts. In a press conference today at NASA headquarters, evidence was presented to suggest that the structures found in an ancient Martian meteorite appear to be fossilized micro-organisms as much as three billion years old. "This first tantalizing evidence that ours may not be the only planet ever to nurture life," notes Dr. H. Paul Shuch, executive director of the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) League, "gives us good reason to renew our efforts to detect more advanced civilizations in the cosmos."
"Of course," says Shuch, "it's a long road from fossilized bacteria to living, thinking, breathing creatures capable of building radiotelescopes, and announcing their presence to us. But given enough planets, and enough time, it's likely to happen somewhere." The discoveries in just this past year of half a dozen planetary systems around nearby Sun-like stars suggests that there are indeed enough planets, adds Shuch. As for time, the universe is perhaps three times as old as the Earth. "If life has had time here to evolve from single celled micro-organisms to our present level," asks Shuch, "why not elsewhere?"
The first suggestion that meteorites might contain fossilized lifeforms was made by Hans Dieter Pflug in the 1980's. His early findings were dismissed by many biochemists as "pre-biotic structures which merely mimic lifeforms." But form follows function, according to SETI League biologist Muriel Hykes, so it stood to reason that other, similar evidence would ultimately resolve the question of alien life. "This seems to be the evidence we've been seeking," notes Hykes. "Now the SETI efforts can proceed in earnest."
SETI scientists seek to determine through microwave and optical measurements whether humankind is alone in the universe. Since Congress terminated NASA's SETI funding in 1993, The SETI League and other scientific groups have been attempting to privatize the research. Experimenters interested in participating in the search for intelligent alien life, or citizens wishing to help support it, should email to join_at_setileague_dot_org, check the SETI League Web site at http://www.setileague.org/, send a fax to +1 (201) 641-1771, or contact The SETI League, Inc. membership hotline at +1 (800) TAU-SETI. Be sure to provide us with a postal address to which we will mail further information. The SETI League, Inc. is a membership-supported, non-profit [501(c)(3)], educational and scientific corporation dedicated to the electromagnetic Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.
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