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Space & Astronomy

Microbes can survive in space for years

By T.K. Randall
June 1, 2015 · Comment icon 5 comments



Could life have been transferred around the solar system on asteroids ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
New research has emphasized the remarkable persistence of life even in the cold vacuum of space.
The idea that life can be transferred around the cosmos on comets and asteroids, a concept known as panspermia, has often been put forward as a potential origins theory for life on Earth.

Given the number of space rocks hurtling around the solar system it is also very possible that we have ourselves seeded life on neighboring planets at some point in the distant past.

The extent to which life can survive in the vacuum of space however has remained a topic of some controversy, in particular following the claim by Russian scientists that plankton had been found living on the outside of the International Space Station last year.

In a renewed effort to learn more about the environmental extremes that microbes can endure senior research scientist Rocco Mancinelli recently conducted an experiment in which he sent microbe cultures to be placed on the station's external space exposure platform.
After two years he was amazed to discover that some of them had actually survived.

"Those organisms that were exposed to only the space vacuum all survived," he said.

"Those exposed to high doses of ultraviolet radiation died, those exposed to lower doses of UV showed some survival. In other words, if even somewhat protected from UV, the organisms will survive a journey to another planet or moon in our solar system."

Whether this would be enough to enable life to move between planets however continues to remain a matter of debate as asteroids tend to take millions of years to travel between two places.

This would be especially true of life traveling between solar systems several light years apart.

Source: Phys.org | Comments (5)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by paperdyer 8 years ago
I guess if the microbes were inside the meteor or other type of space rock instead of on just the surface, the UV energy from a star wouldn't be able to get to it. If enough of the object survived entry into an atmosphere, I guess some of the microbes can survive.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Sundew 8 years ago
Survival is one thing, but whether a microbe could stand being blasted off of planet "A" by a comet or asteroid impact, travel millions of miles in space and then survive a fiery reentry through the atmosphere of planet "B" is more problematic. Plus it would have to find an environment similar to its origin to have some chance of survival; algae might be blasted out of a shallow puddle on Earth, but that doesn't mean it will find a suitable habitat in a desert of Mars or in the baking oven of Venus.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Nnicolette 8 years ago
But if it landed on europa...
Comment icon #4 Posted by Calibeliever 8 years ago
Survival is one thing, but whether a microbe could stand being blasted off of planet "A" by a comet or asteroid impact, travel millions of miles in space and then survive a fiery reentry through the atmosphere of planet "B" is more problematic. Plus it would have to find an environment similar to its origin to have some chance of survival; algae might be blasted out of a shallow puddle on Earth, but that doesn't mean it will find a suitable habitat in a desert of Mars or in the baking oven of Venus. True, the odds are insanely high. But they're still probably lower than guessing 6 lottery numb... [More]
Comment icon #5 Posted by TheGreatBeliever 8 years ago
Don think anyone wants to know anything bout microbes..


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