Curiosity Propels Us

Jung Woo BaeDecember 2, 2016Mysteries of the UniverseFeatures
Curiosity Propels Us


Approximately four and a half billion years old, with an atmosphere comprised of nitrogen, oxygen, and other gases. It is a planet brimming with life, boasting around nine million complex life species. Yet, according to Nature, “a staggering 86% of land species and 91% of marine species remain undiscovered,” meaning that Earth contains a greater array of organisms than we currently are aware of.

This thought alone is enough to startle and astonish, but humankind has gone an extra step by pondering the possibility of life outside the boundaries of Earth’s atmosphere. We were once too busy worrying about our own existence during more primitive times, but as science has developed and we have learned to use it well, we have begun searching for other life forms that may be living on a planet like ours. Our efforts to explore and discover should be a source of great pride for every human citizen on Earth; after all, our insatiable desire to wonder, dream, and imagine is what enables us to truly soar, to break boundaries and expectations, and to take one more step for mankind.

Unlike other planets that are relatively nearby, such as Venus or Mars, Earth is a planet where a great number of incredibly diverse life forms can exist. Ours is often referred to as the “Goldilocks planet”; in other words, it has the perfect conditions for life because it is neither too hot nor too cold. Even a small increase in Earth’s overall temperature would result in ice caps melting and, consequently, species in colder regions losing their habitats; a slight decrease would cover the whole planet in ice and snow, causing a tragic loss of species adapted to warmer temperatures.

As we are venturing out into the vast wilderness we call space, we are discovering that Earth may not be the sole planet with these life-sustaining conditions. In fact, in August 2016, astronomers announced that a planet of similar size to earth’s is orbiting Proxima Centauri (the nearest star to Earth) in the star’s “Goldilocks zone.” Furthermore, it seems that this planet has unique potential for research due to its close proximity to Earth; it is 4.2 light years (25 trillion miles) away from our planet, which may seem dauntingly far, but is actually considered very close in astronomical terms.

This discovery, however, is not the only evidence that could indicate life beyond Earth. One of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, has everything believed to be essential for life, namely water, energy, and organic chemicals. Saturn’s moon Enceladus is also a promising place for life to thrive, since it gains tidal energy from the planet it orbits and holds enough liquid water to fill an ocean.

Unfortunately, in our current circumstances, much of what exists in the cosmos remains unclear. We have a multitude of questions that will be left unanswered until our technology reaches a certain point so as to enable us to investigate further. For example, in order to accurately calculate the Drake Equation (an equation used to estimate the number of civilizations in the universe capable of communication), an improved form of sending messages to extraterrestrials is needed. On a smaller scale, astronomers have tried transmitting messages to the stars and placing discs on spacecraft for any species nearby to read so that they will be able to contact Earth.

Our road to investigating planets beyond Earth will be a long and difficult one. But once we overcome the technological difficulties and restrictions of current scientific techniques, once we embark on a journey to discover extraterrestrial life, our human spirit will burn brighter than ever before. We will be more than ready.

If we think beyond this point in time and imagine a future in which we are able to travel across galaxies and milky ways, what will happen if we do come across alien life? What then? Only imagination can allow us to comprehend what our responses will be. If we really do meet hostile, aggressive aliens like those depicted in the sci-fi films we all have watched at least once in our lives, we might retaliate. Or we might compromise. We may be awed at the beauty of some life forms, or horrified by the existence of others. The possibilities are endless.

Whatever we may come to know, whether we will discover that there are actually no life forms beyond our planet, or for some strange, unexplainable reason, interspace travel cannot be continued, at least we will have attempted to reach beyond the safety of our lives here on Earth.

No doubt our relentless drive to explore will bring us even greater pride in the future, and perhaps even propel us through infinite space.


Chang, Kenneth. "One Star Over, a Planet That Might Be Another Earth." New York Times. August 24, 2016.

Howell, Elizabeth. "How Friendly Is Enceladus' Ocean to Life?" February 23, 2016.

Howell, Elizabeth. "Drake Equation: Estimating the Odds of Finding E.T." March 26, 2014.

Redd, Nola Taylor. "Jupiter's Icy Moon Europa: Best Bet for Alien Life?" August 22, 2014.

Sweetlove, Lee. "Number of Species on Earth Tagged at 8.7 Million." Nature. August 23, 2011.

Jung Woo Bae is 17 and just graduated from the 12th grade. He lives in New Zealand, and his hobbies include writing and being in the beautiful outdoors of his country. He loves barbershop (a cappella) and he hopes to study medicine in the future.