What impact, if any, does the discovery of the Gliese 581 planets have on American society?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Americans have long been fascinated with the idea that life might be possible on other planets.  Authors such as Jules Verne or Edgar Rice Burroughs have written best-selling books about the possibility of such life.  In modern times, we have come to know that no other bodies in our solar system can support life as we know it.  However, the discovery of exoplanets such as the Gliese 581 planets gives new impetus to the idea that life might exist somewhere other than on Earth.  This is the main impact that the discovery of the Gliese 581 stars has had on American culture.

With the discovery of these planets, some of which are believed to be in the "Goldilocks zone" where liquid water could exist, we are more able to believe that there might be life elsewhere in the universe.  Since we have nothing even approaching proof of such life, the impact on US culture has not been great.  However, the fact that the possibility seems less remote has caused a great deal of interest.  We can argue that it has impacted American culture by making people more interested in space and in the idea of extraterrestrial life.

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