Back in May, when President Donald Trump signed a bill to authorize funding for NASA over the the 2017 fiscal year, the takeaway was that the agency was basically being told by the federal government to go about business as usual. Barring a few exceptions, Congress, with Trump’s blessing basically gave NASA exactly what it asked for, to do as it would for one more year. But there was one, small, really tiny edit into the final version of the bill which basically told NASA to, well, find aliens.
Here’s the deal: the 2017 NASA Authorization Act has a line that, as The Atlantic observes, basically calls for “the search for life’s origins, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe.”
So while Congress didn’t actually tell NASA it should spend the next year looking for extraterrestrial life, it is perhaps the first explicit mention on behalf of the government that part of the agency’s purpose is to learn what we can about life outside of this planet.
The authorization act reads, under the headline ASTROBIOLOGY STRATEGY:
“The Administrator shall enter into an arrangement with the National Academies to develop a science strategy for astrobiology that would outline key scientific questions, identify the most promising research in the field, and indicate the extent to which the mission priorities in existing decadal surveys address the search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe.”
The Act calls for NASA to enlist the help of partners from both the international community and the private sector as well.
Read More: Inverse
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