Panspermia – space exploration for the very small?

Panspermia, or the idea that life could be spread between planets throughout the galaxy by travelling through space, has been generally discounted in the serious scientific community for a long time.  The reason for this is this is that it has been generally believed that no organism could survive the harsh environment of space.

Recent experiments by the European Space Agency might have recently forced a rethink on this belief however.

http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEM72XRJR4G_index_0.html

Not only can some lichens survive long exposures to the vacuum of space, but also some simple animals and plants can too.  The key appears to be that the organism must have a low water content.  In addition to these findings experiments are currently underway to look at the survivability of micro-organisms in space like environments, although the experiments are currently being conducted on Earth.

Now don’t let these findings disturb you too much and make you start reaching for your copy of “Day of the Triffids” or “War of the Worlds”.  The current problem preventing general acceptance of the Panspermia theory is the extreme heat generated by the friction of re-entry through atmosphere.  No organism has yet been found that can survive that – although experiments to investigate this are due next year.

There just has to be some good SF stories in this…

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4 Responses to Panspermia – space exploration for the very small?

  1. John Schmidt says:

    When I admit to myself that faster-than-life travel is unlikely, my thoughts often turn to directed panspermia, but I’m not sure it makes sense to send biological life forms through space…not even in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Big Space F##k” dreams.

  2. Dave says:

    Thank you for your comment John.

    Many Earthbound animals produce a prodigious amount of young, the majority of which die, yet despite this a small number sucessfully reproduce. This same principle could well be employed in space if a method was found of getting out there. Who knows?

    To be honest, what I enjoyed about the original article is “conventional scientific wisdom” being disproven, or at least thrown into doubt.

    Too much science is currently dogmatic imho. If you want religion, join a church, not a science lab.

  3. John Schmidt says:

    If science were done by robots it might be possible to prevent dogmatism from creeping in. Science works because even if you cannot teach an old dogmatist new tricks, you can’t keep down the new scientists who will just march right over the old dogma.

  4. Dave says:

    Yeah. I guess it is these “scientific revolutions” that keep us rolling on.