The search for alien life may be over soon, according to NASA’s Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan.

During a panel discussion discussing water sources in the universe, Stofan stated that she believes humans could come in contact with the first iterations of extraterrestrial life by the year 2025.

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“We know where to look. We know how to look,” she said. “In most cases we have the technology, and we’re on a path to implementing it, so I think we’re definitely on the road.”

That road has already led to the discovery of ice and water in places like the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

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Stofan went on to say that more tangible or concrete evidence of alien life could pop up in the next 20 to 30 years.

Stofan isn’t alone in her thinking as others also agree that life beyond Earth is a huge possibility.

“What we didn’t know five years ago is that perhaps 10 to 20 percent of stars around us have Earth-size planets in the habitable zone,” says Matt Mountain, the Director and Webb Telescope Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. “It’s within our grasp to pull off a discovery that will change the world forever.”

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However, these aliens probably won’t take the form that many are used to seeing in science fiction. Instead, Stofan says that alien life will more than likely be much, much smaller.

“We are talking about little microbes,” Stofan added during the panel discussion.

It’s these microbes that could change everything about how humans see their existence in this universe.

Mountain sums up what would happen with the future discovery: “Just imagine the moment, when we find potential signatures of life. Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over — the possibility we’re no longer alone in the universe.”

 

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Shawn Thomas is a Web Producer for CBS Local. Follow him on Twitter.