The Queen's astronomer, Lord Martin Rees, made a bit of a stir last night when he announced his belief that, within 40 years, we would be able to confirm the existence of alien life forms.

Rees was speaking at a debate held in honor of Stephen Hawking's new program, Grand Design. Rees also said that, over the next four decades, finding out about the origin of life and where it exists will become crucial.

Lord Rees said that he believed that there may be some questions that are beyond human brains for which we might need alien interaction. He compared it to how monkeys' brains do not understand quantum physics, but human brains can, and mentioned that humans were probably not the end-all-be-all of evolution.

Last year, the Lord also suggested that aliens were already on Earth in a form that we may not yet recognize. If aliens existed, he said, they were probably looking for us too. Also at the debate were Stephen Hawking, Dame Aethene Donald, professor at Cambridge University, Will Self, author and Adam Rutherford, geneticist.

For years, scientists, philosophers and stargazers have struggled with the possibility of life outside this planet. Lord Rees said that he thinks that, by the year 2025, astronomical developments will allow researchers to view far-away planets distant from our solar system.

In the United States, 36 percent of Americans polled said that they believed that aliens have visited Earth, while an additional 48 percent said that they were not sure if aliens had visited but remained open to the possibility.

Last year, when the White House launched its Petitions website, Phil Larson made a statement on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology that they have not found the existence of extraterrestrials yet. This statement was made in response to two petitions that asked the administration to "formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race" and to "immediately disclose the government's knowledge of and communications with extraterrestrial beings". The two petitions collectively received over 17,400 signatures.

Scientists have found a total of six planets that are habitable so far. Most of these discoveries have occurred within the past year.

Stephen Hawking's show will discuss everything from the Higgs boson to Isaac Newton's law of gravity. Never one to shy away from the idea of God and science, Hawking said that he thinks that science can explain the existence of the universe without God.