Space travel is an aspiration of millions and touching living beings beyond boring earthlings is an exciting, new possibility. However, when examined against the overall map of the earth and its timeline, the scale isn't as large as it seems.
Space travel has happened only for the past 55 years. Less than 550 persons have gone beyond space.
Mae Jemison, doctor and former NASA astronaut, is one of those lucky few. She was the first African-American woman to shoot into space on the Endeavour space shuttle. But today, she is trying to take human space travel much beyond the solar system.
"In order to do space exploration, you have to push further than the things that we know how to do now," Jemison said in an interview to CNBC.
Does that mean that she saw some life that all of us would not have? Maybe. But when asked whether travelling into space makes her convinced about alien life, she was amused and replied: "I don't know that having been in space gives me a better idea of whether life might exist on other planets."
Still, she was convinced that it does exist elsewhere.
"The reality is that we know that this universe, that our galaxy, has billions of stars. We know that stars have planets," she said. "So the likelihood that there is life somewhere else to me is just absolutely there."
She referred to Proxima b, the planet closest to the earth, that was found last month. Though it is 4.2 light years away and is a bit bigger than our own planet, scientists affirm that it is warm enough to harbor life if there is some water there.
"That's a long way away, but it's the closest neighboring star (to Earth)," Jemison said. That means "we might have an opportunity to see it, one day."
She also talked about Mars, which is a goal for the earthlings within 20 years. "As far as I'm concerned, we could have been on Mars sooner than that," Jemison said to CNBC. "In fact, I was thinking as a little girl growing up that I would be there. When I look at whether we can go to Mars, it's definitely something we can do. "
Jemison also pointed out some links between space probes and their applications to life on earth. NASA missions have been responsible for two cool inventions that have now permeated our lives.
"Today, we take GPS systems for granted [but] they were in space," the astronaut said. "We take magnetic resonance imaging, 'MRI' for granted and yet they were really built on the algorithms... used to interpret signals of probes that looked at Venus, for example," she added.
"The issue is whether we have the commitment and whether we connect it back to life here. So folks understand this isn't just a boondoggle," Jemison said. "It's really about changing our world here. "
Jemison is the Principal of the "100 Year Starship." This is a joint collaboration between the Dept. of Defense and NASA to take interstellar travel forward.