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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET


Jonathan Wachtel

New York Bureau


U.N. and Aliens

October 14, 2010 - 5:20 PM | by: Jonathan Wachtel

We Earthlings are poorly prepared to respond should there be contact from aliens, according to the director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).  “Statistically, extraterrestrial life is a possibility,” Malaysian astrophysicist, Mazlan Othman, told journalists in New York, where she is attending a General Assembly meeting on cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space.

Othman says solar systems of planets around stars are constantly being discovered and when considering the billions of stars in space, “we could find life,” though when discussing extraterrestrial life, it is “not always green aliens with large lovely eyes, but most likely bacteria.”

The UNOOSA chief categorically denied recent press reports that she had been appointed as Earth’s ambassador for aliens should they appear, asking “take me to your leader.” British papers covering a Royal Society meeting on outer space apparently jumped to this conclusion when they discovered Othman’s participation in an expert panel discussion about extraterrestrial life, contamination from space and other concerns.

Othman concedes that she is not an expert on extraterrestrial life, but points out that as space exploration improves, its detection becomes more likely. She believes that the world must come together to lay out a plan for how to cope with such a discovery.  She says it makes sense for the U.N. and its member states to determine who should represent humanity if aliens come to our planet.

UNOOSA is charged with promoting international coordination of space exploration, satellites, and the tracking and development of a unified response to threats from asteroids, meteors and space debris. It also formulates laws and guidelines on the peaceful use of outer space.

Though clearly flattered that her name has come up as a potential respresentive of mankind to beings from outer space, Othman says, “we are many years away from having a plan on the ready,” for that possible ET encounter. She chuckled when asked if by years she meant  light years.

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