Most stories end up being able to land on another inhabitable planet and continue our civilizations in there. But if we rewind these stories a bit:

As years past by, we continue space exploration until we have discovered another Earth like planet thousands of lightyears away. As we focus more on the said planet, we continue to discover that primitive life exists on this planet. Being very far, the current technology only allows us to just view and see what's going on in this planet. Researches indicated an impossibility to send any other investigative device on this planet due to it's distant nature, and even posted a very high expensive risk of wasting resource on a planet that might have already been destroyed by its own inhabitants.

Having discovered a planet with life in it, what are the scientific values we can gain in this discovery? (If possible, Site examples of concrete technologies that will emerge in this discovery.)

thousands: metaphor for the distance we have currently calculated to be impossible for us to reach even in a couple of millenia.

  • $\begingroup$ I did not include one of my subquestions: "What is the effect of this discovery on our religions" since I don't want to have many questions. If possible, please add even a short answer in this subquestion on your answer. If a short answer is not enough, I'll add a question specific to this question. $\endgroup$ – Swindles Jun 24 '15 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ For one, the ability to observe details at such a distance itself would be a HUGE technological advancement, as we can barely make out objects in our own solar system without probes. $\endgroup$ – Erik Jun 24 '15 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ It's important to note that, without a radical new technology, we would only see what was going on at that planet thousands of years ago, and not what was happening today. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jun 24 '15 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ I think 5 light years away would be beyond our reach with present technology. As the fastest that any human being has ever travelled is about 25,000 miles per hour (the Apollo moon missions), travelling 5 light years would take over 130,000 years. Even if you suppose that we could build a space ship that could travel 10 or 100 times faster than anything we've built to date, so maybe you can get the travel time down to merely thousands of years. $\endgroup$ – Jay Jun 24 '15 at 14:14

For humans, somehow discovering life on a far-a-way planet would spur us into finding a way to communicate with them some how, and even more try to find a way to send people there (the easiest way to communicate). That is how we work. We might spend 100 years building a generation ship to send there and fill it with volunteers, but we would do it, even if they only arrived to view the scattered remains of an extinct civilization.

We would improve our space faring technologies and our communications abilities. and obviously continue working on our observation technology to better observe what is going on in that distant planet to the best of our abilities.

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    $\begingroup$ Agreed. Just the prospect of finding life elsewhere in our own solar system has prompted several nations to spend billions of dollars creating the technology necessary to investigate. Maybe we'd send a generational ship. Maybe we'd advance AI and send robots. Who knows, but we'd find a way of sending something. $\endgroup$ – NotMe Jun 24 '15 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ Well, if they were intelligent, I think the easiest way to communicate would be to send radio messages or something comparable. That would be way easier than sending a manned expedition. If they're not intelligent, then there's no question of "communicating", of course. Either way, we might well still want to send an expedition to explore and learn. Whether people would be willing to devote the huge resources that would be required is another question. I don't doubt that a survey of science fictions fans would give a resounding answer of "yes, of course". But I think experience has shown ... $\endgroup$ – Jay Jun 24 '15 at 19:56
  • $\begingroup$ ... that the general public would be far less excited. $\endgroup$ – Jay Jun 24 '15 at 19:56

It depends on how much you are assuming it is possible to observe at such a distance.

If we observed alien life (intelligent or not), it could tell us a lot about what is biologically possible. Is the aliens chemistry also based on Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen? Do they have something like DNA? How is it the same and how different? Do they gain nutrition, reproduce, etc, similar to creatures on Earth or do they do these things differently? Etc.

Conceivably such knowledge could lead to a greater understanding of our own biology, what is inevitable and what is coincidental. Thus it might lead to improvements in medicine, genetic engineering, agriculture, who knows?

Or, of course, such knowledge might turn out to be of only academic interest with no practical implications. Depending on just what we learned.


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