'Are we alone in the universe?' is a question many have wondered when looking up at the stars.
That's exactly what an upcoming space mission is attempting to learn, and we could get the answer back as soon as the early 2030s.
Set to depart in October 2024, the Europa mission is scheduled to reach the moon of Jupiter in early 2030 and assess how habitable certain parts below the surface of the ice moon are.
Per Universe Today, scientists think the surface of Europa is an outer shell of ice about 10 to 15 miles thick which covers an ocean which could potentially contain double the amount of water found in all of Earth's oceans combined.
The presence of liquid water is one of the conditions researchers think is needed to support alien life, so if the Europa mission finds what it's looking for that could be a vital clue to what sort of places in the universe could have aliens.
Instead, they argue that humanity needs to 'narrow' its search with operations like the Europa mission by looking for certain qualities that would make a planet or moon able to support life.
They say the three main components of a chunk of rock spinning around space that make it a likely candidate for life are a source of energy, the presence of certain chemicals and liquid water.
If all three are found to be on Europa then it could be a sign of where to look for alien life in our galaxy.
The Europa mission is so important in the search for life on another planet because we need to know where to look for aliens and what characteristics point towards potential alien life.
If there really is intelligent life out there then we'd need to be careful about rushing to meet it with open arms.
Some researchers have argued that 'zero risk does not exist' when it comes to looking for extra-terrestrial life, and that we should be very wary of announcing our existence across the cosmos.
They calculated that if we ever do contact aliens then we should be prepared for the possibility that they'll be hostile to humans as outsiders, since our own history has plenty of similar examples.
Meanwhile, other scientists have theorised that if there is life out there then perhaps the reason it hasn't visited us is because they're too busy dealing with their own problems to show up and get involved in ours.
If there are other civilisations out among the stars that have the technology to reach Earth and pop down to say hello then they might be burnt out and wracked with problems to render exploration a low priority.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]