June 25, 2015 7:37 AM EDT

“The universe makes galaxies. Galaxies make stars. Stars make worlds.

The number of possible homes for life is staggeringly high–in the trillions. But knowing this is not the same as having direct evidence. We’ve never been closer to finding life’s signature on other worlds than we are now. Missions currently planned or contemplated could provide us with proof. We live on the brink of that revelation as we extinguish life forms on Earth and endanger our civilization by changing the climate and degrading the environment.

Are we alone? No, we have each other. That recognition will likely prove more elusive to us than finding life elsewhere.

ANN DRUYAN

EMMY- AND PEABODY-WINNING WRITER, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER AND DIRECTOR OF 2014’S COSMOS AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF NASA’S VOYAGER INTERSTELLAR MESSAGE PROJECT

“Being in space does change your perspective.

It’s a perspective I wish every person on this planet could have. You do get a glimpse of our place in the universe. And I wouldn’t say we’re insignificant. It’s really significant we’re here, sharing this planet.

In every crack in the sidewalk, there’s something growing. One of my favorite Hubble photos shows just a sliver of what we know as our universe. Nearly every dot is a galaxy. Life seems to want to take hold, and with all the planetary systems around so many stars, it’s hard to imagine this is the only place.

BARBARA MORGAN

DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR IN RESIDENCE AT BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY AND FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT

“Captain Janeway spent seven long years in the Delta Quadrant,

75,000 light-years from home, battling alien species of every conceivable kind, so if you were to pose the question to her, she would throw back her then handsome head and, regarding the questioner with a touch of pity and a scintilla of scorn, would open her mouth and laugh with the abandon of the fully confident. Fictional characters are often given to such displays of hubris. I, on the other hand, confront this question with the same wide-eyed, full-hearted innocence I bring to bear on all that is impenetrably mysterious. And because I am Irish, I am never entirely free of the tangle of sentimentality. I read, I think, I observe, I listen, I weep, and in the end, I am resigned to the limits of my own imagination. I simply look heavenward and whisper, “I hope not.”

KATE MULGREW

ACTOR KNOWN FOR STAR TREK: VOYAGER AND ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK AND AUTHOR OF THE MEMOIR BORN WITH TEETH

This appears in the July 06, 2015 issue of TIME.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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