I’m not saying that the bacteria you just killed after cleaning your counter for the umpteenth time today with antibacterial wipes is aliens … but a new study suggests it could be. Not only that, researchers have figured out how entire colonies of tiny alien beings could survive and even thrive on a three-year trip from Mars and beyond. In fact, these alien bacteria may have been our ancestors due to a strange new method of panspermia called massapanspermia. I’m not saying WE’RE aliens, but …
"The origin of life on Earth is the biggest mystery of human beings. Scientists can have totally different points of view on the matter. Some think that life is very rare and happened only once in the Universe, while others think that life can happen on every suitable planet. If panspermia is possible, life must exist much more often than we previously thought."
Dr. Akihiko Yamagishi, a Professor at Tokyo University of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, not only believes panspermia is possible, he’s spent years trying to prove how it works. He has been the lead investigator for the Tanpopo space mission which put microorganisms on the outside of the International Space Station to test whether they could survive. Three Deinococcus species known for their ability to live in extreme conditions on Earth -- D. radiodurans, D. aerius and D. aetherius – were sent into space for varying lengths of time, then brought back for study. The results of this research have recently been published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology and summarized in a press release.
“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.”
In other words, the researchers found that D. radiodurans (listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the World’s Toughest Bacterium) needed a colony only 1 mm in diameter (.03 inches) and .5 mm thick (.015 inches) tucked in a crack on a space rock to survive up to 45 years in space. The D. radiodurans that may have made it to Earth on one such panspermic ride would have been protected by a shell of dead comrades. This aggregate mode of survival and transportation is known as the Borg Collective – just kidding, it’s known as massapanspermia, although even the study found some similarities.
“Comparison of the survival of different DNA repair-deficient mutants suggested that cell aggregates exposed in space for 3 years suffered DNA damage, which is most efficiently repaired by the uvrA gene and uvdE gene products, which are responsible for nucleotide excision repair and UV-damage excision repair. Collectively, these results support the possibility of microbial cell aggregates (pellets) as an ark for interplanetary transfer of microbes within several years.”
Similarly to the Borg, the microorganisms repaired their own DNA damage, the arks were more like pellets (two Borg ships were spheres), the aggregate resembles the Collective and the conclusion even used the word “Collectively”!
Does all of this “collectively” prove panspermia and the theory that micro-ancestors came to Earth from another planet? Not yet … but it moves the needle slightly closer to it. Next step is to see if D. radiodurans could survive a crash landing on a meteor.
I’m not saying we’re aliens … yet.