There were reports last week of a UFO spotted over the Great Wall of China, and as China races to become a “space power,” some news outlets wonder if China’s latest project has something to do with the search for extra-terrestrial life.
Last year, China launched its newest space station, Tiangong 2, into orbit. It also put the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope into operation.
China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope is tasked with “survey of neutral hydrogen in the space, observation of pulsars as well as spacecraft tracking and communications,” according to China Daily.
The dish, however, has another purpose.
The Atlantic reports:
From The dish is Earth’s first flagship observatory custom-built to listen for a message from an extraterrestrial intelligence. If such a sign comes down from the heavens during the next decade, China may well hear it first.:
Is China trying to find humanity’s first signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe?
They are spending huge amounts on space exploration, and continuing the FAST’s mission is proving to be no easy task.
More work and spending lie ahead as China pushes forward in their attempts to become a superpower for space exploration.
Daily Star reports:
The superpower has now poured billions of pounds into space exploration and the world’s largest dish to detect alien signals coming from other galaxies.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said the bold project would “enable us to take larger and further steps in space exploration, and make new contributions to building up China as a space power.”
The 500-metre Aperture Spherical Telescope is about twice the size of the US’ Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
Liu Cixin, a top Chinese researcher into alien life, described the dish as something “out of science fiction”.
Mr Liu has written a number of books about the risks of first contact and warns that the “appearance of this ‘other’” could end with mankind’s extinction.
In one of his books, he said: “Perhaps in ten thousand years, the starry sky that humankind gazes upon will remain empty and silent.
“But perhaps tomorrow we’ll wake up and find an alien spaceship the size of the Moon parked in orbit.”
Liu isn’t the first to suggest that contact could mean extinction for humanity.
Stephen Hawking has his doubts about broadcasting messages into space. “Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus,” Hawking has famously said. “That didn’t turn out so well.”
Others, such as Seti director Dr. Seth Shostak say there’s nothing to worry about.
“We have been telling them willy-nilly that we are here for 70 years now,” Shostak said in an interview with BBC. “They are not very interesting messages but the early TV broadcasts, the early radio, the radar from the Second World War – all that has leaked off the Earth. Any society that could come here and ruin our whole day by incinerating the planet already knows we are here.”
It feels strange that true experts should take it for granted that someone’s out there, listening, while most of us struggle with the science fiction feel of “contact.” We hear a great deal about the chances of intelligent life existing around one of the hundred billion stars in our Milky Way among billions of other galaxies in the observable universe.
But how likely is it, assuming that there are civilizations out there, that we’ll ever hear from each other?
Let us know what you think, and sound off in the comments below.