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Unknown caller: can we effectively manage the announcement of discovery of extraterrestrial life?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 March 2015

Gordon M. Gartrelle*
PhD Candidate, University of North Dakota, John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Studies, Department of Space Studies


The definitive discovery of another form of life from beyond Earth will answer one of our most fundamental questions: Are we alone in the Universe? This announcement will be the most significant in history. It will have impact on every facet of our lives and affect everyone on Earth. Ensuring the announcement is handled properly represents an opportunity to unify government, industrial, and scientific resources to work together on a global scale issue. The purpose of the present paper is to understand whether we have the overall strategy, management structures and process disciplines in place on a global scale to handle an announcement of this magnitude. The research methodology included review and analysis of peer-reviewed work on the topic, publications from appropriate scientific and policy organizations, and public statements from several acknowledged experts in the field of astrobiology and extraterrestrial communications. The 1996 case of the announcement of possible life from Martian meteorite ALH84001 was also analysed. The findings of the paper are multiple deficiencies exist in the ability to manage this problem globally in an integrated fashion across borders, institutional boundaries, and through the media. High-level recommendations are offered to address major identified gaps.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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