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SciTech

What would first contact with aliens be like? 


The recent discovery of an Earth-like planet very close to our solar system has sparked renewed interest in extraterrestrial exploration. In this speculative essay, young scientist and writer Angelica Yang speculates what might happen in the not-so-distant future.

Imagine this: You are now part of a Technocrat civilization with the most advanced machines in the world… well, probably the entire universe. Naturally, your curiosity gets the best of you- and your race starts to send nanocraft to explore other solar systems in search of extraterrestrial life. One of the target locations is the Alpha Centauri System, a haven for sci-fi authors and alien enthusiasts.

Twenty years ago, in 2016, a Chilean observatory reported on a potentially habitable planet called Proxima Centauri b within the Alpha Centauri system. This exoplanet is said to have harbored bodies of water since its orbit around its star, Proxima Centauri, was within its habitable zone.

After long years of waiting, news of extraterrestrial creatures has broken the internet. Live feeds on NASA and Twitter are now streaming shaky sound bytes of the inhabitants on Proxima Centauri b. After looping it for a couple of times, you then conclude that it was a transmission from a radio. Perhaps the extraterrestrials also had the same technology as your kind.

On your Facebook wall, you see blurry images of Proxima Centauri b captured by the famed nanocraft. The entire landscape was rocky, with a soft and surreal red glow. Just beyond the rocky terrain, you spot a stream of liquid flowing from one end to another. Water. Didn’t all great civilizations start beside bodies of water?

You switch back to Twitter and find out that your live feed has been updated.  Everyone has been tweeting nonstop about this momentous discovery that new notifications would pile up in seconds. You tap on an article from the UN database and read about the recent creation of the UN Diplomatic Council consisting of linguists, diplomats, anthropologists, government leaders, scientists, and astrophysicists. One of the diplomats mentioned in the article was your classmate, Sam, in college. The Council would then join the owner of the nanocraft spaceships along with veteran astronauts to make first contact with the extraterrestrials.

The communication can go both ways: it can end in peaceful diplomacy or in a violent outburst. Although 6 months will be given to the Council to present their plan of action to the UN Board, you can’t help but think of the distant future. At present, you now stand at the forefront of humanity to witness living, breathing, and human-like creatures from another region of the universe. They could be here already: for all you know, they could be posing as one of you, trying to learn your eccentric Technocrat lifestyles. They could be beautiful, menacing and cruel, just like the aliens in Battlestar Galactica. Or maybe they’d be hostile at first but then accept humans as allies—and so fulfill your dream of embarking on a shared journey to the stars.

Another question that comes to your mind: Can you imagine your kids hanging out with Proxima Centauri b kids? How would they look like in the children’s playground? Will they need some kind of a space suit to help them get acclimatized to Earth’s weather? Will they need to learn how to speak your dialect, or will you need to speak their language? Or maybe you could just install an automated language translator on their space suit.

Of course, scientists will want to discover more about them, their DNA and their body composition. It will be quite a challenge to collect samples, but humans will find ways (they always have). Finally, maybe the world will finally discover if they are Earth’s first ancestors- and you can bet your latest Technocrat gadget that Giorgio Tsoukalos would be very interested in this. There’s this weird theory going around about aliens helping humans build infrastructures and complexes. Maybe that theory will be finally put to rest.

So many questions. Too little answers.

You log off from Twitter and Facebook, planning to get a good night’s rest. After reclining on your bed, you try to sleep but more questions keep pouring in. What if, instead of going to Europe for Christmas, you could spend your hard-earned money on a round trip ticket to Proxima Centauri b? Will they have hotels there? Resorts or casinos? Or will you have to live in makeshift tents, similar to that of the Martian, without the strong winds and sandstorms (hopefully).

Maybe you could even find the love of your life there. Maybe you’ll find out that human girls are not your type. The thought of it makes you laugh aloud. It’s probably not going to happen. But there might be a chance; who knows?

Lucky for Sam who was handpicked by the Council to join in humanity’s first interaction with them. Maybe Sam could show them a bit of Filipino hospitality. They would definitely warm up to people like her. Engineers and scientists could be brusque and concise- you’ve spent a lot of time with the geniuses. And if it ends well, the humans and ‘Proxima Centaurians’ would start off with a great friendship.

But what if they suddenly attack? What if they don't have civilized brains to comprehend speech, language and intention—like animals being threatened out of their habitat? The UN better do a good job in regulating its military forces upon visiting the exoplanet. It would be very difficult to go there, unarmed. There is a small possibility that creatures from other planets might attack the UN Diplomacy Council inside the nanocraft. It’s a very small possibility- but still a possibility nonetheless.

All this thinking is making your head hurt. You roll up the blinds covering your window and gaze at the starry night sky. In this part of the city, where smoke and fog ceased to exist, stargazers and lovers can watch the stars twinkling overhead. Like a bag of silver glitter haphazardly thrown at a dark canvas.

Somewhere, 4.29 light years away, there is another being gazing at the same picturesque view- elated and fearful of your kind. Who knows what the future will bring? The universe will always conspire against you; and move towards a state of entropy, of chaos. But destiny has many ways of coming true, despite the odds.

Today, destiny has brought you and the rest of humanity to the precipice of the Milky Way and beyond. From here, there’s no other direction to go but up, soaring through the night sky, streaking a hundred planets, headed towards the exciting future. And you will be there to see it all. — TJD, GMA News


Angelica Y. Yang is a third-year BSE Biology student at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She also writes for the “To be You” Lifestyle section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, contributes science articles to the Mind Museum Blog, and works as a freelance writer for Rogue Magazine. 

The views expressed in this speculative essay are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the position of this website.

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