New Study: Life On Earth May Not Have Started Here

How did life on Earth begin? Scientists have been arguing over this exact question for years. But a new experiment has, among other things, lent some serious credence to a theory that life on Earth didn’t start on Earth at all.

More than a year ago, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute and the Biology on Mars Experiment decided to test just how hardy two strains of algae were by sending them up to space and putting them on the outside of the International Space Station. Yup, no air, no water, harsh blasts of radiation, the whole works, and they experienced it all for 450 days. Once the algae were removed and put in friendlier conditions, only one of the samples failed to produce a viable colony.

There’s a lot of interesting points this study raises, including how humans can survive the rigors of space and how we might create food and oxygen on Mars. But it also reinforces a theory of life called “panspermia,” which despite the name that makes us giggle (we’re only human), is a fascinating one that argues life came to Earth in the form of simple organisms hitching a ride on asteroids and comets. After all, they’ve just proved that after more than a year in space, simple plants can survive, so going into hibernation on a rock and waking up on Earth isn’t a big logical jump.

It’s not a definitive confirmation, of course, and far more tests will need to be done. But if we manage to confirm it, that raises the next intriguing question: If the plants that spawned life on Earth aren’t natives, where did they come from?

(Via Gizmodo)