Of course, there is life throughout the universe.  Life, though, as we already know takes myriad forms.  We also know that some, if not all, of those forms are evolutionary stepping stones.  We could even be evolutionary stepping stones. I hope we are.

It could happen in our lifetime or later in the lifetime of future generations. Regardless, when we make that first contact it may be less than momentous. It could even be somewhat disappointing.  There we are on a nearby moon of either Saturn or Jupiter, and there before us is a squiggly life-form that took an astrobiologist to identify.  WHAT? A moon of either Jupiter or Saturn?  Is that all we have done?

Don’t despair.It will be in our own solar system where we first meet up with ET life. Remember, extra-terrestrial means just that; beyond Earth. It will be many, many future generations before we make contact with life on some distant exoplanet.  When that happens, what we experience and accomplish locally will prepare us to be ready for exo-life out there.

Here is the important consideration.  Although I am personally certain that there are, somewhere in this vast universe, sentient beings as advanced or more so than us;  we may never ever meet.  What we may meet are life-forms of a lower order than us, maybe somewhere between unicellular life and pre-Homo sapien.  In these instances we will be the all powerful, all knowing life-form.  Hopefully, we will have acquired both the curiosity and the gentleness that insures that we do everything we can to study and interact with those life-forms in a most considerate and careful manner.

With all due honor and courtesy to Dr. Stephen Hawking, this is not scifi. We are not going to be fighting off an onslaught of ravenous creatures determined to either devour or, like the Borg, subsume us.  At the same time, we should have learned by now that most life-forms, except Homo sapiens are defensive, territorial, hungry, and curious, but most likely not malicious.  We must not duplicate the acts of Columbus or the Conquistadors of Spain who immediately sought to dominate and control their new environment.  As our own astronauts have proclaimed, we must go and arrive in peace.

Now, I know we all want to look for life on Mars, but as I have stated before, what we will do there is find out what happened on Mars that cost it its life.  So we should learn our new space exploratory skills by first returning to our Moon and creating a fully efficient and sufficient Moon Base.  This will prepare us for all our future exploratory missions, while also keeping us in better contact with home.  Yes, we too, just like ET, will want to call home regularly.  So, are we up to it?  Can we and space scientists across the globe begin to act in concert to start serious, long-term exploration that are totally independent of the wiley whims of politicians?  If the answer is yes, then we don’t wait. We start now.

Twitter and Facebook, give us the links to the entire world. Lets start the call.  Maybe we start by calling for a design competition for an International Space Exploration flag. That’s right, no single nation plants its flag on any of our solar system neighbors.  Only a flag representing the citizens of Earth should fly anywhere in our solar system and beyond.

I’m ready, are you? Quo Vadis!