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Space The Military Science

US Air Force Pays SETI To Check Kepler-22b For Alien Life 301

Posted by Soulskill
from the best-defense-is-a-strong-offense dept.
New submitter iComp writes with this quote from El Reg: "The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has announced that it is back in business checking out the new [potentially] habitable exoplanets recently discovered by NASA's Kepler space telescope to see if they might be home to alien civilizations. The cash needed to restart SETI's efforts has come in part from the U.S. Air Force Space Command, who are interested in using the organization's detection instruments for 'space situational awareness'."
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US Air Force Pays SETI To Check Kepler-22b For Alien Life

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:26AM (#38288650)

    Maintaining scan for UFO's.

    "Intruder...alert...U...F...O..."

  • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:28AM (#38288656)

    Does this mean I'll finally have a use for my Y2k bunker? If so, I should get busy building it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:28AM (#38288658)

    Before they're finished blowing up people and things in Afghanistan etc?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:32AM (#38288668)

    the USAF wants to track sub orbital cruise missiles like DARPA is developing using the SETI ATA to look at close earth objects with high accuracy during the day when their optical tracking systems are offline. SETI wants to find alien civilizations at night. should work nicely.

  • by TheDarkener (198348) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:35AM (#38288684)

    If there is intelligent enough life on Kepler-22b to see that our U.S. military, who can't seem to figure peace out on our OWN planet, is the first to probe theirs...they could see it as a potentially hostile first impression. Just sayin'.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:45AM (#38288718)

      It's the military having foresight, produence, and due diligence. Their main job is to defend us, and one of the major part of that is accessing new threats wherever they are.

      If we were to find life on this planet, would you rather us to in completely blind about them?

      • by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:59AM (#38288756)

        This. Even though I don't want go to war with aliens (and it currently seems illogical to do so) I have no problem with funding dual-purpose research just in case.

        • by thisnamestoolong (1584383) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @09:15AM (#38289782)
          I've got news for you; if the aliens have the technology to come here, and they wanted to kill us off, there is nothing that we could do. All of the movies you see are a total joke; we would be the proverbial fish in a barrel to them. Actually, we wouldn't; it's way harder to kill fish in a barrel than it would be for them to wipe us out instantly. Just imagine the United States military going to war with a tribe of hunter gatherers, and the hunter gatherers have nowhere to hide.
          • by Agripa (139780) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @02:43PM (#38293580)

            Just imagine the United States military going to war with a tribe of hunter gatherers, and the hunter gatherers have nowhere to hide.

            That stupid phalanx killed three of my tanks so I am not so sure about this.

          • > [if] they wanted to kill us off, there is nothing that we could do.

            That's why this scenario is not the one we should be worried about. Here's a greater danger -- one plausible enough, that it might cause Earth-bound governments to invest significant resources in detecting extraterrestrial intelligence:

            Imagine that the intelligence is intentionally (or even: inadvertently) broadcasting information that can be used by one faction of Earthlings against another. Perhaps they are broadcasting wh

      • by geekprime (969454) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @05:07AM (#38288988)

        Do you have any idea how far away these "possible threats" actually are?

        Really, it's a serious question.

        • by cryptoluddite (658517) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @06:39AM (#38289272)

          The possible threat is from mass panic and/or social unrest. Take somebody's whole lifetime of religious belief and pull the carpet out from under it and they'll react irrationally. Do that to the majority of people on the planet and you potentially have big problems.

          I mean our fundamentalists already go crazy over basic science like evolution or climate change or conception, just imagine what they'd do if we weren't the Chosen planet, let alone how people in some place like the Middle East would react. You know for a certainty people would at least try to blow up the radio telescopes and cover up the knowledge. What else? Who knows, but the government having some time to plan and prepare before word got out would be valuable preparation.

          • by inasity_rules (1110095) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @07:09AM (#38289362) Journal

            This is an interesting read. [wikipedia.org]

            I find it sad that writers fear to explore religion in speculative fiction. The reaction (specifically of the majority of Christians -i.e. catholics) may not be what you think it is.

            • by nospam007 (722110) *

              "I find it sad that writers fear to explore religion in speculative fiction."

              They don't. They still write Midrash (a form of storytelling that explores ethics and values in biblical texts.)
              excerpt below. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midrash)
              Some even say that the bible is a collection of such fictional stories.

              "Contemporary Midrash

              A wealth of literature and artwork has been created in the 20th and 21st centuries by people aspiring to create "Contemporary Midrash". Forms include poetry, prose, Bibl

          • by syousef (465911)

            I mean our fundamentalists already go crazy over basic science like evolution or climate change or conception, just imagine what they'd do if we weren't the Chosen planet,

            They would be divided between falling over each other reinterpretting their holy book to show that it predicted first contact, and insisting that first contact is a sign of the end of days and the aliens are devils in disguise.

          • by martas (1439879)
            Exactly, but it can be stated more generally. GP said that the military's role is "accessing new threats", but a large part of that is acquiring intelligence/knowledge of potential strategic importance, preferably before anyone else does. Even though hundreds of light years away, the actual discovery of technologically advanced extra-solar life would most definitely be of very high strategic importance, even if only just for the reason you gave.
        • by Yev000 (985549)

          Far enough to be able to evolve from monkeys by the time the light gets here?

      • by whovian (107062)

        It's the military having foresight, produence, and due diligence. Their main job is to defend us, and one of the major part of that is accessing new threats wherever they are.

        If we were to find life on this planet, would you rather us to in completely blind about them?

        I think you meant assessing, but the way things seem to work in the US, you would have been correct either way.

      • It's the military having foresight, produence, and due diligence. Their main job is to defend us, and one of the major part of that is accessing new threats wherever they are.

        If we were to find life on this planet, would you rather us to in completely blind about them?

        Are you kidding me? The military's main job is to defend us? Have you been living under a rock? The military's main job is to support the political aims of the people in power. If the people in power were looking to defend us, those two goals would be aligned and there would be no conflict. Unfortunately, this is not even remotely the case. I am not even going to give you examples because honestly, at this point, if you need me to provide examples of how the people in power aren't looking out for us then

    • by ZankerH (1401751) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:54AM (#38288746)
      The military's job is fighting wars. Securing peace is the people's and governments' job.
    • . . . our U.S. military, who can't seem to figure peace out on our OWN planet . . .

      Peace is not the job of the military. Their job is to fight wars. Peace is the job of politicians and diplomats.

      "War is a mere continuation of politics by other means," ("Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln") -- Carl von Clasewitz

      However, when we meet aliens, the politicians and diplomats will base their decisions on intelligence gathered by the military folks. Like, "What are the aliens' true intentions?" Are they secretly lizards who chow down on rats, or are th

    • by captainpanic (1173915) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @04:07AM (#38288788)

      Explore, conquer, colonize. We are humans. Resistance is futile.

      There's intelligent life on our planet, and we are happily killing it into extinction for our own expansion. Looking at the way we behave at our own planet, I think it is extremely likely that we would inhabit every planet we can reach if it is inhabitable. And then take over sooner or later, with or without a struggle.

      It's in the line of expectations that the military get involved early on. Humans have never explored anything unarmed.

      • by Krneki (1192201)

        Explore, conquer, colonize. We are humans. Resistance is futile.

        There's intelligent life on our planet, and we are happily killing it into extinction for our own expansion. Looking at the way we behave at our own planet, I think it is extremely likely that we would inhabit every planet we can reach if it is inhabitable. And then take over sooner or later, with or without a struggle.

        It's in the line of expectations that the military get involved early on. Humans have never explored anything unarmed.

        Blame natural evolution or god for creating us that way.

        • by migla (1099771) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @06:46AM (#38289294)

          >Blame natural evolution or god for creating us that way.

          Nah. Obviously, any human action depends on god/evolution to allow it, but often "blame" should lie more directly on for example culture/ideas than on the underlying plumbing that facilitates them.

          In this case of violent human exploration it is true that genes are probably pretty directly involved as the humans explore in states of fear and greed, but ideas and culture is still a bigger factor, and also the one we can do something about.

          While we have the capacity for violence and feelings of fear, anger, revenge and greed, we are also capable to marvel and feel sympathy, to be righteous and to share. The higher plane of ideas and culture is where we can work, building on a foundation of the genetics of a social, loving animal and overcoming the scared greedy brute within.

          So, no, don't blame god or evolution, even if they're visibly present in the state of things, because also the malleable ideas and culture of fear, greed and ruthlessness are there, shaping the order of things at least as much. Ideas and culture we can work on more readily.

          Don't surrender to what is hardwired. Work around it in the software.

    • by aepervius (535155) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @05:19AM (#38289026)
      kepler 22 is ~600 LY away. At the best case even if we were sending a message today , they would not receive is at roughly christmas 2611 and even at average 20% c speed their ship would not be there before many millennium, to find either a highly advanced civilization, or barbarian from a fallen society. How would they *divine* that it was sent by our military ? Would they even *CARE* that some folk military 600 LY away has their panty in a knot ? And we are not even sending a message, as far as I can read we are only checking.

      Anyway the article make it clear that space command seems to be more interested into mundane stuff.
    • by CFBMoo1 (157453)
      Seti just listens and doesn't really poke things. I don't think we have the ability to actively poke something 600 light years away. How can anything really know we're watching if we're only using passive means to observe it? The time to start worrying maybe is when our radio and TV signals finally reach that planet.
    • by gtall (79522)

      Just for the record, the U.S. Military was never keen on going into Iraq. That was the Bush Administration. In Afghanistan, they used a very small footprint initially. Then the Bush Administration decided to drag the locals out of the 9th century into the 21st.

      You are blaming the wrong people.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:38AM (#38288692)

    Do they have a bunch of "Space Marines" ready to jump out of the trunk of the Space Shuttle, like in Moonraker? Or are they working on "Space Warrior Robot Soldiers?" . . . definitely more geekier!

    Will our first contact with Alien Life be with military space drones? That ought to work out nice: "Oh, the Alien Military Drones' way of saying they like you, is to bite your Military Space Drone in the ankle!"

    Well, I guess I won't have to worry about such contacts happening in my lifetime. Unless we figure out how to surf those faster-than-light-neutrinos.

    Or maybe . . . "they" know how to do it?

    "Alien Charlie does surf!"

    • by guttentag (313541) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @04:04AM (#38288778) Journal
      OK, I'll bite.

      We're not talking about Buzz Lightyear, Space Ranger.

      USAF Space Command is responsible for military satellites that support other commands. For a while, it was also responsible for intercontinental ballistic missiles (Anyone remember War Games? Or Spies Like Us? "Do you know what those things can do? Suck the paint off your house and give your family a permanent orange afro." Space Command was responsible for "those things" that the 1980s believed would bring about the end of the world.), but in recent years traded that responsibility for "cyber operations" (you know, the people who are watching the Chinese who are reading your email).
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, from watching the declassified space documentary, "Stargate SG-1" they command a moderate size fleet of intergalactic-capable starships integrated with alien technology. They also regularly travel to other planets using an ancient alien device that creates wormholes.

    • by necro81 (917438)
      "The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots."

      The Secret War of Lisa Simpson, and amusing mashup [youtube.com]
  • Jill Tarter (Score:5, Informative)

    by SecurityTheatre (2427858) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:55AM (#38288748)

    I ran into Ms Tarter (the director of SETI) at the Oakland airport a few years ago and recognized her from her numerous bits of SETI branded gear she had.

    I was very pleased to find that she was both passionate and intelligent, as well as very pragmatic. We had the chance to talk for over and hour before the flight left and discussed many of the things that are interesting about the whole project.

    I certainly consider myself lucky to have seen a part of that and heard it first hand.

  • The funny thing is, just because our planet supports life in this so-called 'habitable zone', doesn't mean life cannot thrive outside of this zone, until we actually have interstellar travel we'll never know for sure!
    • by Rennt (582550)
      Of course - but it is still smarter to start looking in places where we know life can exist then it is to start with all the places that we don't.
    • by Rennt (582550)
      We are also far more likely to want to trade/compete/fight/have sex with 'habitable zone' aliens.
    • "The funny thing is, just because our planet supports life in this so-called 'habitable zone', doesn't mean life cannot thrive outside of this zone, until we actually have interstellar travel we'll never know for sure!"

      Both Tucson and Phoenix seems to be habitable zones for aliens. Life appears to thriving well as far as i can tell from space (http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=32.888813,-111.489258&spn=1.399932,1.977539&t=h&vpsrc=6&z=9).

      As they have been terraforming for decades, interstellar t

  • by Ardeaem (625311) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @04:34AM (#38288872)
    Before I read that the array was going to be used by the Air Force for non-SETI purposes (something not made apparent by the summary), my thought was: "The planet is 600 light years away. Let's say we detect radio signals from Kepler-22b. That means we know that on a planet 3 quadrillion miles away, some species used radio signals 600 years ago. That's not exactly situational awareness..."

    I imagined a conversation about "situational awareness" during the Iraq war going something like this:

    General: So, what's the situation?
    Advisor: Sir! In the 15th century, the Aztecs defeated Azcapotzalco, sir!
    General: Excellent!

    • by Ardeaem (625311) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @04:36AM (#38288884)
      Just to make clear: The Air Force does not want to check Kepler 22b. Here's [seti.org] what they want:

      AFSPC, through the Space Innovation and Development Center (SIDC), is currently researching the possible use of the ATA to augment the already extensive sensors of the Space Surveillance Network, potentially leveraging the array to help increase space situational awareness. Initial demonstrations show promise for the ATA to track transmitting satellites in Low Earth Orbit, Medium Earth Orbit and, most promising, in Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO), which is home to the most costly, highly-utilized, and vital satellites that orbit the earth. A collision and subsequent debris field in GEO could permanently remove the GEO belt from worldwide use.
  • by muckracer (1204794) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @04:47AM (#38288916)

    Apple quietly got a grant from the U.S. Air Force Space Command to develop a virus for 'space-craft defensive measures'...

    • by captjc (453680)

      I...uh...believe there...uh...were also...uh...also several papers ...uh...published on the topic of...uh...Chaos...uh...Chaos Theory...uh...as well.

      Uh...Also check out...uh...reruns of ...uh...Law and...uh...Order Criminal...uh...Criminal Intent on...uh...uh...USA! Characters...uh...Welcome.

  • I've been waiting so long to hit on purple haired women...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDzNkern1Fc [youtube.com]

  • The Air Force pays for the research. The Air Force owns the output of the research. The Air Force suppresses report stating national security.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Shut up and think.

      Finding an Alien race would be a fucking blank check to do what needs to be done to get more information.

      It's like the chuckle heads who think NASA as secret information about aliens.

      It makes no sense. NASA find alien life, again, blank check.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @07:27AM (#38289396) Homepage

    The Fermi paradox isn't just a cute bit of philosophy. Our galaxy should be teeming with life. We live on prime real estate, the Thrints should have colonised it back in the Cambrian.

    So either we're unique (inconceivable), ~8.8 billion years isn't long enough for any other species anywhere in the Milky Way to have kicked off colonisation (improbable), or something is silencing them (merely unlikely and scary).

    Maybe we should take a look at that third possibility, and take a good hard look around rather than shouting "Here we are! Hey, over here, life!" into the void. Paranoid? Yes, but we're gambling the species on it, and the costs are essentially pocket lint.

  • Our five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before so we can target them and take them out.
    • by syousef (465911)

      Our five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before so we can target them and take them out.

      If you're going to quote Star Trek, get it right. The plan was for Kirk to shag as many green and blue 3 breasted women as he could.

  • by Sqr(twg) (2126054) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @09:01AM (#38289720)

    Sorry to disappoint, but TFS is way off. (So unusual for slashdot...) Actual information is here [seti.org].

    "Space situational awareness" is not Colonel O'Neil looking out for an invading alien fleet. It means tracking satellites and space debris to avoid collisions. The USAF is renting the SETI array to track GPS satellites.

  • Which group in the American gov., other than those researching, backed the concept of AGW? It was the military. Why? Because they did enough of the calculations to see that it was close, if not accurate, and then went on to play out scenerios. They came up as being that there is going to be a lot of chaos in the future.

    As such, I would hope that the DOD would be looking into issues of possible non-terrestrial life considering the possibility for a major impact to our nation and the world.

Men love to wonder, and that is the seed of science.

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