Life Beyond its Planet of Origin
Astrobiology is the study of the living universe, but right now the only place we know it exists Planet Earth….or is it? We don’t yet have proof of non-Earth organisms elsewhere, but from the time of the first spacecraft, we have sent our own life forms into space. Some are accidental passengers on un-sterile spacecraft, while others have been put there for a reason, from human to microbial astronauts. Can life spread from planet to planet within our solar system? This would entail leaving the home planet, surviving the journey, landing on a new body and then reproducing. Some research is being done on most of these steps to take the idea of panspermia from the realm of science fiction to experimental science. Today we will particularly focus on flight experiments to test the ability of organisms to survive in space.
Finally, periodically the news becomes an echo chamber broadcasting tales of microbial fossils in meteorites, or live microbes from space in our atmosphere or even raining down on the Earth. Most reports need to be analyzed very critically, a skill which we hope to develop in today’s lecture.