The team supporting the Kepler Space Telescope has announced confirmation of a planet only twice the size of Earth and smack in the middle of the local habitable zone. It is entirely possible that this planet could harbor life or even a civilization. Of course, it could also be as barren as the moon.
The new planet is 600 light years away, close enough to be the planet in my novel. Too bad we don’t actually have jump transport.
Seriously though, this is close enough to make a long range probe feasible, at least in principle, with current technology. I would have to be able to operate for a century of more, but it might not be a bad idea. Kepler is currently studying 2,326 other possible planets in similarly favorable orbits. Many are closer and will eventually pan out.
The universe is getting smaller.