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THE human race has passed through two stages on the way to discovering the truth about its place in the universe, and is now entering the third stage.

The first stage, which started in ancient times and lasted till the Renaissance, was the belief that the Earth was the centre of everything – the focal point of all creation, with the stars, planets, sun and moon, revolving about it, until a Polish polymath named Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) discovered that the Earth – and every other known planet - circles the sun, and the sun and universe did not circle the Earth.

Copernicus was so afraid of the backlash from The Church (who preached that man was the centre of the universe) he opted to have his landmark book, which expounded his revolutionary theory, published just before his death.

Those literate enough to read the book realised that the human race had now been relegated from the most important beings in existence to life forms living on an average planet that was circling an average star which was just one of countless others.

The second stage was the realisation that life must exist on other worlds, given the mind-boggling high number of planets in the universe.

So what is the third stage?

The third stage – contact with life forms on other worlds - could begin in this century.

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