Search for Aliens: Is Congress About to Start Funding New NASA Research?

The green light could soon be given to fund the search for little green men. Legislation put forward by the U.S. House of Representatives for the future of NASA proposes $10 million be spent for each of the next two years on the "search for technosignatures, such as radio transmissions."

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life Institute (SETI) looks for radio signals in space and had government funding for its quest until 1992 when it was cut following objections from a senator that nothing had been found.

Former director of SETI research, Jill Tarter, was part of that project which used radio telescopes in Puerto Rico and California that scoured space for potential signals.

NASA's Kepler spacecraft is seen in an undated artist's rendering. It has discovered a number of exo-planets which could be the focus of a search for alien life if proposed U.S government funding gets approval. REUTERS/NASA/Handout via Reuters

Now she hopes that the latest pledge from Congress means the search can resume and allow the construction of better equipment to examine the cosmos for longer.

"Ten million at once for one year won't do much but $10 million a year, as an ongoing funding stream, could do a great deal.

"It could allow people to build special-purpose instrumentation, and then use it on the sky for a long time," she told The Atlantic.

After government funding was cut, NASA has been focused on searching for biosignatures in space and signs of early microbial life.

This meant that SETI scientists had to rely on academic institutions or private donors to continue their research. Avi Loeb, from Harvard's astronomy department said even if detecting tiny microorganisms in our own solar system was more likely than finding communication from light years away, SETI research is still valuable.

A test version of the Orion crew module is shown following testing and recovery procedures with the U.S. Navy in San Diego, California, U.S., January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

"I don't see a reason to do one and not the other, because it's also very challenging to look for primitive life. It's not as if it's a piece of cake, an easy task. Otherwise, we would have done it already," he told The Atlantic.

In 1992, the only known planets were those in the solar system. Now, there are more than 3,700 known exoplanets, a number of which were discovered by the spacecraft Kepler.

"Kepler showed us that planets are as common as cheap motels, so that was a step along the road to finding other life because at least there's the real estate. That doesn't mean there's any life there, but at least there are planets," Seth Shostak, from SETI said.