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The head of the UN's Office for Outer Space Affairs is poised to become first point of contact for extraterrestrials.

Astrophysicist Mazlan Othman, 58, is concerned that we simply don't have a proper welcome mat ready to unroll when ET finally gets in touch - something she feels is ever more likely as we scour the skies for signs of non-human life.

According to The Australian, she recently told fellow scientists: “The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day humankind will receive signals from extraterrestrials. When we do, we should have in place a co-ordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is a ready-made mechanism for such co-ordination.”

Professor Richard Crowther of the UK's Space Agency lent his support to the appointment, which requires ultimate UN approval. He said: “Othman is absolutely the nearest thing we have to a 'take me to your leader' person.”

Crowther doubts, though, that Othman will be required to shake hands personally with intergalactic envoys, since our "first contact" is likely to be via radio, and in any case much alien life is probably nothing more than microbes.

This view is not shared by professor Stephen Hawking, The Australian notes. He recently warned: “I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet.

"The outcome for us would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the native Americans.”

The native Americans, of course, didn't have the benefit of a "co-ordinated response" fronted by an astrophysicist, and we're sure Othman has a diplomatic strategy in place to spare humanity subjugation by fleets of enormous astrocruisers packed with pitiless, resource-hungry lizard creatures. ®

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