Congress is considering a bill that would put $10 million towards the search for extraterrestrial life, The Atlantic reported Thursday.
If approved, the bill would fund NASA's effort to find "technosignatures, such as radio transmissions" to "search for life's origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe." Technosignatures are evidence of TV or radio waves that could be produced by intelligent civilizations elsewhere in the universe. NASA was focused on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, back in 1992, when Congress funded a couple of massive telescopes to search for signals from aliens hoping to contact Earth, but the program was swiftly shut down when a Nevada senator led the charge to cut its funding, mocking it as "The Great Martian Chase."
Researchers have continued to search for alien life forms, but mostly through private research firms with independent funding. NASA has been focused on astrobiology as a way to find microbial life in space, rather than technosignatures, which would indicate an intelligent life form. The fact that the government seems to be inching towards support for SETI again is a "sea-change" and a "very big deal," astronomer Jill Tarter told The Atlantic. Even though the proposed $10 million over the next two years wouldn't get NASA too far in the universe-wide search, says Tarter, it's a start.