Billionaire Milner Eyes Private Missions to Search for Extraterrestrial Life

Hydrothermal activity in Enceladus’ core and the rise of organic-rich bubbles. (Credit: ESA; F. Postberg et al — 2018)

Billionaire Yuri Milner, founder of Breakthrough Initiatives, is eying a private missions to search for life elsewhere in the Solar System, reports.

Breakthrough Initiatives, which already scans the heavens for possible signals from faraway alien civilizations, is considering looking for E.T. on worlds close to home, founder Yuri Milner said.

“We are thinking very seriously about solar system-based initiatives,” Milner said here Sunday (Nov. 4) at the seventh annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “We’re thinking, within our foundation, is there something we can do, privately funded, which will supplement the government-funded projects?


So, where might this putative Breakthrough mission go? Milner cited as possibilities Jupiter’s moon Europa and the Saturn satellite Enceladus, both of which have oceans of liquid water beneath their icy shells, as well as Venus.

Venus may seem like an odd choice, given that its surface is bone-dry and hot enough to melt lead. But conditions in the clouds, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) up, are much more life-friendly, Milner noted.

  • windbourne

    try mars first.
    Ideally, they would use it as a test run prior to going to water worlds.
    But, have to say that Venus is an interesting choice.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Now that the voters have rejected Rep. Culberson because of his interest in pushing NASA research on Europa private individuals like Yuri Milner are the best hope for finding life on ice worlds.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Why Mars? They may find something alive there eventually but it will most likely take boots on the ground to find it because it is a (relatively) big planet and a lander would have to get extremely lucky to find it. You also have to deal with an atmosphere and more gravity than you’d find on Europa. If you are looking to practice drilling into ice, we have plenty here and could make all the “dry ice” we need otherwise. If we need to practice the landing, our own Moon is better suited and closer.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Rep. Culberson was not defeated because of his interest in pushing NASA research on Europa.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    If this has real teeth to it, I’d love to see the balance sheet for the R&D to get ready for icy moon recon at the gas giants. At some point in LEO development it’ll be cheaper to develop your evolutionary systems in LEO than it would be to do so on the ground. As things are going, 1 to 3 meter class space telescopes made with commercially available CNC machines and the cost of a spin cast mirror at the UofA, are starting to look affordable compared to a human tended observatory here on Earth. I expect the line to be crossed well within my lifetime when you figure in the cost of land, construction, and maintenance, a space based telescope will be less expansive than a new Earth based telescope. Not to mention the US is running out of good mountain tops. For spacecraft development, when will LEO be cheaper than building a place like JPL, or even cheaper than keeping it running? That day will come.