The Gist: Signs of life


Douglas Sonders

Douglas Sonders

By Margaret Fosmoe

Dava Newman has an audacious prediction: Humans will find evidence of past or present life elsewhere in the universe in the near future.

“In all of exploration, we have three fundamental questions. They’re big, bold questions: Are we alone in the universe? Are there other habitable planets? And is there life — meaning is there life elsewhere?” asked Newman, the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics and director of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, during a December 7 lecture at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts. “The evidence is mounting. Big prediction: People will find life, probably in this coming decade.”

Contributions will be needed from all disciplines to prepare for a future of interplanetary travel and solving problems on our own planet, Newman said. “We’re all global citizens and we’re all astronauts. We’re all crew on spaceship Earth.”

Newman earned her Notre Dame bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, and master’s and doctoral degrees at MIT. She served as NASA Deputy Administrator from 2015 to 2017. Her work in multidisciplinary aerospace biomedical engineering investigates human performance across the spectrum of gravity, including a new generation of spacesuits, life support and astronaut performance.

Related Content