Why do we need to spend any more effort on extra-solar planets?
We found some, they’re there. Lumps of rocks, gasballs. We’re done, right?
This, loosely paraphrased, was a serious question I got last week.
The context was a question of why I was spending serious effort on exoplanet research, rather than focusing exclusively on other subfields.
I’ve heard similar comments from physicists, some particle physicists are notoriously focused in their consideration of what counts as “real physics”, but this came from an astronomer; and one that I know does stars, inside the galaxy, sometimes, not just extragalactic.
We live on a planet.
We are surrounded by planets.
It behooves us to understand them in some detail,
and as with so many other phenomena, more data is really helpful.
All of this is pushing us to constrain the presence of exolife, on all fronts: we will soon, within decades, directly test Mars, Europa and Titan for the presence of life, and see if it is there and whether it is the same as on Earth; we will also get a direct look at the asteroids and comets, just in case there is something weird going on there – these are places with chemical substrates and interesting levels of free energy flows.with some pointed snark
Part of the reason for this is short term view of political administrations, well summarised by Scott Hubbard’s quote at a panel: “Will it discover life before the end of the second administration?” – asked about the Mars Lander planning in the last decade.Eli has always been of the Fermi School on alien technology, e.g. "Where is everybody?" As to exobio perhaps Eli can explain. At the time the NASA exobiology program started the Bunny was closely associated with someone who played an important role is setting it up and he knows many people who hopped on the bandwagon. Suffice it to say that much of the research, although it is good research has bugger all to do with life on other planets, although the proposals all (they have to) depart from that point.
The thing that really sticks in peoples craw tho is how the manned space flight crew glommed onto exobio to justify a joy ride to Mars. That sucked the wind out of a lot of other stuff.
So yeah, exobiology is a program looking for a mission.