There's still no sign of aliens at Area 51, according to Elon Musk (or so he claims).
Last weekend in Boca Chica, Texas, in front of a gleeful crowd of SpaceX employees, guests and members of the media, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed new details about Starship Mk, the company's enormous reusable launch system. But the conversation drifted to extraterrestrial life.
"As far as we know, we're the only consciousness, or the only life that's out there," Musk said. "There might be other life, but we've seen no signs of it."
Seeing as SpaceX has explicit plans to send humans to the surface of Mars, it is no surprise that Musk finds himself ruminating on the possible existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life.
"People often ask me," he said, 'What do you know about the aliens?' and I'm like, 'Man, I tell you, pretty sure I'd know if there were aliens. I've not seen any sign of aliens.'"
Now, Musk is not an astrobiologist, nor does he perform research in another field advancing the search for extraterrestrial life. So, I'm not sure that the idea that, if anyone has information about aliens, it's Elon Musk, holds up. Still, he remains a powerful figure in the spaceflight industry and, for all who are wondering, he has seen no evidence of alien life.
"Well, is the military hiding aliens in Area 51 or something? That's a popular meme," he added. "Let me tell you, the fastest way to increase defense funding would be to bring out, like, 'Hey, we found an alien!' Ah, more money for defense, definitely."
Related: 15 Far-Out Facts About Area 51
This is actually a valid point. On Sept. 20, a small group of individuals gathered outside of Area 51 in Nevada, taking part in a joke "raid" that had spiraled into an out-of-control meme earlier in the year. People were joking about bringing aliens home from the military base, although the only results were a couple of arrests and overall disappointment from those following the event online.
Public obsession with Area 51 and the idea that the government — or powerful figures like Musk — are hiding some kind of information about an alleged discovery of extraterrestrial life is nothing new. It is reasonable to think that, if there were some "secret alien," revealing that information would surely bolster funding and excitement for further research and exploration.
As of right now, we're alone
But, "the reality is, as far as we know, this is the only place, at least in this part of the galaxy or in the Milky Way, where there is consciousness," Musk said, referring to extraterrestrial life, and seemingly, specifically, to intelligent life, as "consciousness."
"It appears that consciousness is a very rare and precious thing, and we should take whatever steps we can to preserve the light of consciousness," he said, adding that, while he is a generally optimistic person, we might have a relatively small window of opportunity where we are capable of expanding our species, and therefore intelligent life, out past Earth.
During the event, Musk also added that, if there were some type of life-form on Mars, that life-form would likely exist very far below the planet's surface and would be extremely resilient, since it would have had to adapt to the harsh conditions of the planet.
"I hope I'm wrong," Musk concluded, responding to a person in the crowd who (in a joking tone) said they didn't believe what he said about not having alien knowledge. "If they are here, I hope they're nice. You know, they haven't killed us yet — so they must be not that bad."
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Chelsea Gohd joined Space.com as an intern in the summer of 2018 and returned as a Staff Writer in 2019. After receiving a B.S. in Public Health, she worked as a science communicator at the American Museum of Natural History. Chelsea has written for publications including Scientific American, Discover Magazine Blog, Astronomy Magazine, Live Science, All That is Interesting, AMNH Microbe Mondays blog, The Daily Targum and Roaring Earth. When not writing, reading or following the latest space and science discoveries, Chelsea is writing music, singing, playing guitar and performing with her band Foxanne (@foxannemusic). You can follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd.