Recent advances in astronomical research have led to a much-improved understanding of the evolution of the physical Universe. Recent advances in biology and genetics have led to a much-improved understanding of our biological Universe. Scientists now believe that we have the research tools to begin to answer one of man’s two most compelling research questions: "are we alone?" and "how did we get here?" This paper reviews the requirements and challenges we
face to engineer and build the large area and very sensitive focal planes for interferometers and innovative single aperture telescopes to detect and characterize Earth-type planets around stars other than our sun.