The Long and Difficult Quest for Alien Life in the Solar System


QUEST FOR THE THIRD KIND (4/6) – Mars has long been the center of all efforts to find life near Earth, but the quest is now shifting to the ocean moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Little grays and green fellows ignite our imaginations. But the search for extraterrestrial life is also a very serious science that mobilizes the largest space agencies. How to look for life elsewhere than on Earth? Is the presence of water essential? And if an intelligence arose from the stars, could we communicate with it? “Le Figaro” sets out in search of the third type.

In 1976, when NASA’s two Viking probes succeeded in landing on the surface of Mars, American scientists were convinced to find traces of life there. “The main objective of the two missions was to study biology on this planet”, recalls astrophysicist Jean-Pierre Bibring, during a course given at the French Society of Exobiology in 2015. NASA planetologists were not the only ones to think that Mars must necessarily harbor life. At the end of the 19th century, it was even a scientific virtual certainty. In 1877, the Italian astronomer

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