A new research by the European Space Agency, or ESA, seemingly supports panspermia - the theory that life on Earth originated from organisms coming from outer space.
In 2008, scientists from the agency sent an experiment package named Expose-E to the International Space Station. The package was filled with organic compounds and living organisms to test their reaction to outer space.
The equipment was installed on one of the external balconies of the space station. No effort was made to shield the living organisms, including lichens, from the harsh conditions prevalent in space.
Unlike in Earth, where the atmosphere protects life from the harmful ultraviolet rays and keeps temperatures relatively stable, the space samples were exposed to the full power of the sun. They had to cope up with temperatures ranging from -12 degrees centigrade to over 40 degrees centigrade, up to 200 times a day, as the space station orbited Earth.
The samples, which returned to Earth in 2009, revealed an important finding that some species of lichens continued to grow normally after surviving the full-blown exposure to the harsh environment for 18 months. The organisms survived the hostile environment by going into a dormant state until better conditions arrived.
The study seems to have impressed researchers and cosmetic companies alike. Since the lichens in the study survived full-scale exposure to the sun for 18 months, cosmetic companies envisage the potential to create a better suncream.
The results were now published in a special edition of the Astrobiology journal. The ESA intends to probe this theory further with different samples on future station missions.
by RTT Staff Writer
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