Space oddity: bacteria can survive cosmic travel, study finds

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Tokyo (AFP)

Scientists have discovered that a radiation-resistant bacteria can survive at least three years in orbit, suggesting that simple life forms could handle the long journey between Earth and Mars without protection.

Japanese scientists behind the research said on Wednesday that the discovery lent credence to the so-called “panspermia theory,” which postulates that microbes can travel from one planet to another, bringing life to them. arrival.

To test the theory, the researchers deposited a bacteria called Deinococcus radiodurans outside the International Space Station at an altitude of 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Earth.

Despite the harsh environment of outer space and exposure to strong ultraviolet rays and great temperature changes, the bacteria were still alive in parts after three years.

“I knew he would survive after performing various laboratory experiments, but when he came back alive I was relieved,” Akihiko Yamagishi, study author and professor emeritus at the University, told AFP. of Tokyo Pharmacy and Life Sciences.

The results show that the bacteria could survive a trip between Mars and Earth, and opens up some intriguing possibilities, he said.

“Everyone thinks that the origin of life began on Earth, but new findings indicate that other planets may also be where life began. ”

Yamagishi and his team hope to conduct similar experiments outside of Van Allen’s radiation belt, which would expose the bacteria to even more radiation.

Scientists believe that more than three billion years ago, Mars was much warmer than it is today and was covered with rivers and lakes, conditions that could have led to simple microbial life.

The discovery, published Wednesday in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, returns with Mars in the headlines as three missions head to the Red Planet.

These include the United Arab Emirates ‘Hope spacecraft, China’s Tianwen-1, and the United States’ Mars 2020, all of which are enjoying a time when Earth and Mars are closer than usual.

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