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Could bacteria have survived a trip from Earth to Mars?

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The bacterial exposure experiment took place from 2015 to 2018 using the Exposed Facility located on the exterior of Kibo, the Japanese Experimental Module of the International Space Station/JAXA, NASA

They can survive for years in space:

In 2018, Dr. Yamagishi and his team tested the presence of microbes in the atmosphere. Using an aircraft and scientific balloons, the researchers, found Deinococcal bacteria floating 12 km above the earth. But while Deinococcus are known to form large colonies (easily larger than one millimeter) and be resistant to environmental hazards like UV radiation, could they resist long enough in space to support the possibility of panspermia?

To answer this question, Dr. Yamagishi and the Tanpopo team, tested the survival of the radioresistant bacteria Deinococcus in space. The study, now published in Frontiers in Microbiology, shows that thick aggregates can provide sufficient protection for the survival of bacteria during several years in the harsh space environment…

After three years, the researchers found that all aggregates superior to 0.5 mm partially survived to space conditions. Observations suggest that while the bacteria at the surface of the aggregate died, it created a protective layer for the bacteria beneath ensuring the survival of the colony. Using the survival data at one, two, and three years of exposure, the researchers estimated that a pellet thicker than 0.5 mm would have survived between 15 and 45 years on the ISS. The design of the experiment allowed the researcher to extrapolate and predict that a colony of 1 mm of diameter could potentially survive up to 8 years in outer space conditions. Frontiers, “Bacteria could survive travel between Earth and Mars when forming aggregates” at Eurekalert

Paper. (open access)

Some see this as evidence that the universe is teeming with life on numberless planets. But what if we find fossil bacteria on Mars with genetics eerily similar to the ones we have on Earth? That could end up undermining such claims. But we shall see.

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