Space shuttle astronauts, recently returned from a visit to the International Space Station, have told reporters in Japan they believe that extraterrestrial life exists. However, the space explorers added that none of them had actually seen any.
"I'm sure eventually we'll find something out there," said mission specialist Mike Foreman at a Tokyo news conference earlier today.
"There is probably something out there but I've never seen it," added Foreman's space shipmate Gregory Johnson.
"Life like us must exist," chipped in Japanese astronaut Takao Doi.
Foreman, Johnson and Doi were all on the STS-123 space station mission aboard the shuttle Endeavour in March. Also along was Rick Linnehan, apparently another believer that aliens are out there somewhere. (Possibly relevantly, Linnehan is a qualified vet.)
Linnehan isn't sanguine about the chances of a space rendezvous between humans and ETs, however.
"We are taking only baby steps in outer space efforts," he said.
STS-123 carried the well-known Canadian space robot, "Dextre" up to the space station, and also installed a new Japanese lab module known as "Kibo". The astronauts revealed this morning that "Kibo" smells "like a new car" inside - or it did in March, anyway.
It appears that the visiting spacemen had been drawn into a vigorous debate ongoing in Japan regarding the likelihood of alien attack or visitation, and the measures to be taken by the government in such a case.
AFP, reporting on the astronaut press briefing, notes that Nobutaka Machimura, Japanese deputy premier, has said on the record that he believes aliens exist. Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba has pledged to look into the constitutional ramifications of an alien attack on Earth - Japan being forbidden under its own laws from waging war other than in defence of its own territory.
Japanese politicians have also moved in recent days to allow military uses for the national space programme - though this would be more about spy satellites than a space battlefleet or similar.®