“We are closer to finding life” outside Earth, says a Brazilian astronaut. Laysa Peixoto, an astronaut from Brazil, expressed her optimism about the discovery of life on other planets during a panel appearance at CCXP23 Unlock, an exclusive, invite-only edition of Comic Con Experience. Peixoto, who works at NASA’s L’SPACE Academy, shared her experiences and scientific findings with the audience.
Peixoto, at the age of 19, made history by becoming the first Brazilian to command an aircraft from NASA. Currently, she is involved in developing space exploration technologies at the organization’s academy and has also undergone training to become the first Brazilian woman to go to space.
In her panel discussion, Peixoto emphasized her personal belief in the possibility of intelligent life in the universe. She stated that scientific advancements suggest that we are getting closer to finding various forms of life, including those that are yet to be identified. Peixoto mentioned that life in space can take on different forms, contrary to the depiction of “smart life” often seen in science fiction films and series.
One of the key elements necessary for life is water, and it has been discovered on many planets. Peixoto expressed her hope that future expeditions would uncover evidence of life on Mars, a planet that has captured the imagination of scientists and space enthusiasts alike.
Drawing a comparison to the science fiction novel Dune and the real discoveries made by astrophysicists and astronomers, Peixoto highlighted the possibility of planets covered entirely by water. She found this prospect intriguing and suggested that such planets could provide valuable insights into the existence of life beyond Earth.
Peixoto’s journey into the field of astronomy and geophysics began in 2020, after attending a class taught by Andrea Ghez, the Nobel laureate in physics for her research on black holes that year. Inspired by the stories of accomplished scientists like Ghez, Peixoto realized the importance of representation and the need to increase the space for women in astronomy and astrophysics.
The astronaut stressed the need for better representation of women scientists in cinema and TV, particularly in science fiction films. She advocated for the inclusion of strong female characters, both as scientists and explorers, to inspire younger generations. Peixoto also emphasized the significance of programs and initiatives that highlight the contributions of women who have made significant achievements in science.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Peixoto engaged in a research project related to space. While studying physics at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), she discovered a new asteroid through her work with The International Astronomical Search Collaboration program. The asteroid was named LPS0003, with the young astronaut’s initials attached to it. Peixoto spent months analyzing the images from large telescopes to identify and name the asteroid.
The possibility of asteroids posing a threat to human civilization, as depicted in the Netflix film “Don’t Look Up,” is not entirely fictional. Peixoto confirmed that monitoring these celestial bodies as they pass through our solar system is crucial due to the potential risk of collision with Earth. While acknowledging the dramatic portrayal in movies, Peixoto stated that there is always a chance of an asteroid hitting our planet.
Despite studying physics at UFMG, Peixoto’s involvement in asteroid research led her to join the NASA program and pursue a career in astronomy. She received support from Manhattan University to continue her studies in the United States, furthering her contribution to the field.
In conclusion, Laysa Peixoto’s remarks at CCXP23 Unlock shed light on the current advancements in space exploration, the potential for finding life beyond Earth, and the importance of representation and recognition for women in the field of astronomy. As a Brazilian astronaut, Peixoto’s journey serves as an inspiration for aspiring scientists worldwide.