Imagine working hard to get the job of your dreams. Imagine doing your best in school to get accepted into the college that would get you there. Now imagine attending college and being given the prime opportunity to do now what you wish to do for the rest of your life. For aspiring physicians and medical scientists, such a dream has become a reality as the position of "Emergency Room (ER) Scribe" pops up across the country.
Late astronomer Carl Sagan compared our universe to a vast cosmic ocean consisting of about 100 billion galaxies, each galaxy comprising some 100 billion stars; according to Sagan, there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches of Earth. In this practically infinite sea of stars, we have stood on only one secluded shore: that of our own planet. Are we Earthlings the only inhabitants of the universe, or could beings from another cosmic island be gazing in our direction with a similar sense of curiosity?
It's a Wednesday afternoon in a cluttered basement lab on the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) campus, and I begin running the computer program on a new data set. Maybe this one will be it, I find myself thinking as the program begins to execute. Maybe these data contain the signature we're looking for, one that shows evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence. Maybe I will go down as the first person in history to detect an alien signal!
Words such as Captain Kirk's epitomize the real exploits of Soviet (now Russian) and American civilian space programs that have maintained their presence in space in new and changing ways for over 40 years. Since Sputnik's launch in 1957, projects ranging from Apollo to Soyuz to the current International Space Station (ISS) have shown the changing presence of nation-states in space. State-sponsored programs, which sent highly trained astronauts, have held a monopoly on space travel.