Over the span of time, human curiosity and imagination have led us to make many discoveries about the universe we live in. Sometimes, the driving force behind these discoveries is necessity, while other times, it is the search for wealth, expansion of empire, or the need to see a bit further over the horizon. With the arrival of the modern era, with its incredible access to information accompanied by a robust industrial base, we are preparing to free ourselves from the bonds of earth's gravity and embark upon an unparalleled voyage of discovery in the uncharted space of our planetary neighborhood.
What we are going to discover there, on the surface of asteroids and especially the planet Mars can only be imagined. The planetary robot explorers we have sent are collecting only the tiniest fraction of information we will eventually discover when we finally set foot on the unknown surface of our nearest neighbors. To be certain, we will discover new resources that will help sustain our species and help propel us further into space. It is equally probable that we will also discover new and alien forms of life.
Although we are presently restricted from reaching beyond the nearest habitable planet, Mars, by time and distance barriers, we may someday, perhaps in the next 2,000 years or so, discover a way to break free of them. How we will do so is the subject of much debate and speculation, with ideas ranging from the development of powerful warp drives to the bending of the space-time continuum to form navigable worm holes. Anything is possible, even unimagined alternatives, as we are only limited by our capacity to imagine the possibilities from the known facts.
One way to accelerate the process of developing interplanetary and intergalactic travel would be the result of a visit from another species that has already mastered the science. Could such a visit have already taken place? If you believe in the power of nature and evolution of a species, you must. According to some people, the government has already identified 57 alien species that have visited our planet at one time or another. How and why they came to visit our planet has been the subject of much speculation and conjecture. What's more important, at least to some, is how we can overcome our natural fear and suspicion of the unknown in order to benefit from advances in technology - specifically physics, and survivability in the cosmos.
Let's assume for the purposes of this article, that any alien species would come to earth to establish new trade routes or discover a new source of important resources. Encountering the vast number of life forms on the planet, including our own "intelligent" human life form, they choose to 1) either establish an outpost for the purposes of trade and economy, 2) integrate into the planet's society in order to undertake an imperceptible transition toward a natural discovery of important technology, or 3) simply observe human evolution, with all its ugliness and its beauty, from a safe distance. Science fiction writers and futurists have feasted on these concepts for decades, presenting us with tantalizing images of future with either conflict or peaceful coexistence.
When alien contact is finally fully established and accepted, and fear of the unknown has been vanquished, perhaps we shall be welcomed as partners and co-adventurers in the cosmos. Our egocentric view of ourselves as the best qualified and most capable, even perhaps the most intelligent, beings in the universe is an obstacle to such an arrangement at this time. But in future, we will learn that there are far more that 57 alien species in the cosmos. We will learn that these are just our nearest neighbors, and they are seeking the same thing we are: eternal survival.