I was on the first mission that found signs of extraterrestrial life. Pockmarks in a moon’s surface, craters so radioactive our sensors broke. All we had were a few cement structures and garbage, the remnants of life-forms that had warred themselves out of existence before we could even knock.
I wasn’t on the Astra Mission, whatever they called the one that found two previously inhabited planets. Faster-than-light travel brought us all three of those stories inside of one year. I’ll grant you the last one might have been disease, though there’s no proving they didn’t engineer the diseases that did them in. Even if you blame the one extinction on a plague, the Astra and the outlier were both self-inflicted extinction. Never forget the photos from that rift they opened in their own planet. Went down to the tectonic plates. There were skeletons down there.
Hard for science to recover its luster after we found space was a cemetery. There had always been that cruel joke that any life evolved enough for space travel would kill itself off. We don’t want to believe with the outlier, the only lonely heaven-sifters. But it got the Prime Directive passed the Senate, didn’t it? If you find another culture, interfere before it’s too late.