â€œMy father told me there were other worlds in space, and to an eight-year-old boy that sounded like worlds which were just like my world. It fascinated me, and Iâ€™ve been fascinated ever since.â€
In the search for extraterrestrials, Frank Drake is something of a legend, and seventy years after that moment of inspiration as a child heâ€™s still on a mission to find intelligent life in outer space. Iâ€™m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
â€œIn 1960 I conducted the first radio search for extraterrestrial intelligent signals. I searched two stars for signals, found nothing.â€
Frank Drake was one of the founders of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a pioneering effort on a cosmic scale.
â€œAt that time, no one else was in this field. In fact, the whole idea of searching for extraterrestrial life was sort of taboo because of unfounded and outrageous claims by previous astronomers of finding life on Mars and such things, which turned out to be quite false.â€
Frank Drake is now the director at the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, at the SETI Institute.
â€œThe situation has changed very greatly. We have learned so much of other planets, of the way life arises, how evolution proceeds, that it is essentially certain that elsewhere in the universe there is a great deal of life and probably substantial numbers of places where there is intelligent life.â€
If you know of any budding young astronomers, have them check out the Kidsâ€™ Science Challenge. Itâ€™s a nationwide competition where 3rd to 6th graders can submit their own ideas about ways to communicate with or listen for life in outer space. Thatâ€™s at kidsciencechallenge.com.
Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. Iâ€™m Jim Metzner.