Sara Seager is searching for life beyond our solar system, and she believes our generation has the ability to find it.

“We stand on a great threshold in the human history of space exploration,” she testified before Congress last December. “…If life is prevalent in our neighborhood of the galaxy, it is within our resources and technological reach to be the first generation in human history to finally cross this threshold, and to learn if there is life of any kind beyond Earth.”

Seager, a professor of planetary science and physics who holds the Class of 1941 Professorship, went on to describe her personal vision for how we’ll achieve that feat. Key to that end is a series of new, more powerful telescopes, both in space and on Earth. Two of these are slated for launch in 2017 and 2018.

“Finding life elsewhere in our galaxy would forever change how we see ourselves and our place in the cosmos,” Seager told Congress. In the meantime, the search is inspiring future researchers in and beyond the field of space science. “By investing in university-supported astrobiology space-mission related research, we can continue to train a workforce for technology leadership of the future.”

The topic of the session captured the imagination of the media, which reported its highlights under headlines such as “Great Moments from the Congressional Hearing on Aliens” (Vice) and “This Alien Hearing Is the Best Thing Congress Has Done in Months” (MSN News).

The full text of Seager’s testimony to Congress is available online, as is video of the hearing.

Read more about Seager’s research in the Spring 2014 “Discovery Issue” of MIT SPECTRVM (“Searching for Life”).