Finding traces of life outside Earth will take a long time, said to ANA-MPA Greek noted astrophysicist and planetologist and researcher Athena Coustenis at the Paris-Meudon Astrological Observatory.
However, Coustenis did not exclude important discoveries in the future on the satellites of Saturn and Jupiter, while warning that due to the climate change, the Earth is in danger of becoming at sometime in the future unsuitable for life as the planets of Venus and Titan.
Athena Coustenis was born in Athens in 1961 and in 1980 went to Paris for studies. She was granted her first PHD in astrophysics from the University 7 "Pierre and Marie Curie". Today, she is head researcher (first class) at the National Center of Scientific Research of France (CNRS) and at the Paris Observatory.
She has worked on research and consultive level with the European Space Agency (ESA) and with NASA. Her research that started with Titan and the participation in the space mission Cassini/Huygens, focuses on the atmosphere and the planets and satellites of our solar system's surface particularly on those with astrobiological interest in connection with possible life existence.
Cousteni has received a series of international awards and is the new president of the European Committee of the European Institute of Sciences and president of the International Committee for the Atmosphere and Meteorology.
"I believe that the exploration of the space is at its start and we will need lots of time until we have indications or evidence of life. The main question is what we are looking for and where. Me and my team are not searching for life but for indication of 'sustainable environments, meaning places where the conditions are favourable either for extraterrestrial life or for future colonisation. We have today the means to explore in depth our solar system with space missions and the science of astrobiology focuses on this kind of studies, which are in full progress, as I stated and in my last book. The satellites for the gigantic planets Jupiter and Saturn as Ganymede, Europe, Titan and Enceladus are the most interesting for this exploration because we are now searching for friendly environments with water, energy and nutrients existing under the surface, and not on the surface. In terms of search of life we are, for the time being, trapped for technological reasons, to the exploration of our solar system but there might be living conditions in the outer space as well. In this case we can't do an on the spot detection neither now nor in the near future because the distances are enormous and is beyond imagination and do not allow space missions that is the only way to have tangible and final evidence. So, I cannot refer to any time or date regarding a possible trace of extraterrestrial life but also I can't even see, for the time being, how can someone either scientist or not, imagine the way to reach a conclusion regarding the existence of life inside or outside our solar system.
An eerie and weird silence surround the planet earth, says phycist and writer. If the conditions for life existence appear to be so widespread in the space (water, organic molecules) why we haven't found a single sign of life, especially intelligent, asked ANA-MPA.
"But we have searched almost nothing yet! said Coustenis. We are monitoring an extremely small part of the space and we have heard nothing which, I believe is very normal either because there is nothing there to hear or see or because we are unable, at the moment, to receive the messages, or because possible extraterrestrials do not want or can't make contact with us.
Asked on her studies on the greenhouse effect on Venus, Titan and elsewhere and if the earth may become an unhabited hell in the future, Coustenis replied "That's a timely issue. For now, our planet offers us an exceptional environment for the development of life. It may be unique, at least for our solar system. If we are not careful, we may have a bad ending. If we destroy the ozone protective layer and allow the greenhouse to develop by increasing Earth's temperature, then our planet either will lose its atmosphere or will overheat and will become unsuitable for life at Mars or Venus.
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