[meteorite-list] Texas State Research Sheds New Light on Panspermia

From: Sterling K. Webb <sterling_k_webb_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed Feb 22 13:41:05 2006
Message-ID: <004201c637df$85bd53d0$a62ae146_at_ATARIENGINE>

Hi, All,

> survivors he found--a bacteria called Microbispora. Ironically,
> Microbispora wasn't one of the three species McLean expected to find...
> McLean determined that it had contaminated the experiment prior to
> launch...

    There's a beautiful demonstration of the way Life, the Universe, and
Everything (equals 42) works! The shuttle was intelligently designed. The
experiment was intelligently designed (to make a pun on that silly notion).
Everything was carefully planned. What happened?
    An Opportunist was the winner, some little bug too dumb to die.
Microbispora didn't plan to take a trip to outer space and return to the
Earth, but in the end he fared better than the much more capable lifeform
that accompanied him. To those who say Evolution can't work (or Life can't
arise) through the workings of chance, take a look at Microbispora's
vacation trip.
    So, they're sitting in a Texas parking lot, and one Microbispora turns
to the Microbispora next to him, and says, "Well, that wasn't so bad, was
    "I dunno. We were awfully lucky."
    Life favors the Opportunist (Exhibit One: Bill Gates)
    Loren Eisley wrote a fine essay on the primordial fish who, when his
pond or puddle dries up, stakes everything on a wild leap in the hope of
landing in a better pond or puddle. Many die. Enough land in or near a new
pond or puddle and survive that the impulse to make that hopeless suicidal
(for a fish) leap is inherited.
    Those suicidal fish who struggle hardest to find new water, clawing at
the mud with their fins to crawl, are most likely to survive. This favors
strong "footy" fins. Before you know it, some of their children just get up
and RUN to the nearest pond in a gill-searing dash to find breathable water.
    Well, you can see where this is going. Eventually, fish are getting out
of the water to eat plants and hunt insects and dance by the light of the
moon, no doubt to the dismay of their ancestors. Why, you could hardly call
some of them "fish" anymore!
    All because of an Opportunist who was willing to gamble, senselessly,
against the odds.
    I hope McLean takes these Opportunists back to the lab and gives them a
good home. Make a little sign for their petrie dish that says, "Bacterial
Astronaut Retirement Home."

Sterling K. Webb
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ron Baalke" <baalke_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>
To: "Meteorite Mailing List" <meteorite-list_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Sent: Tuesday, February 21, 2006 3:25 PM
Subject: [meteorite-list] Texas State Research Sheds New Light on Panspermia

> http://talbot.mrp.txstate.edu/currents/fullstory.jsp?sid=689
> Texas State research sheds new light on panspermia
> By Jayme Blaschke
> Texas State University-San Marcos
> February 21, 2006
> When the space shuttle Columbia broke apart during reentry Feb. 1, 2003,
> more than 80 on-board science experiments were lost in the fiery descent.
> Texas State University-San Marcos biologist Robert McLean, however, has
> salvaged some unexpected science from the wreckage. A strain of
> slow-growing bacteria survived the crash, a discovery which may have
> significant implications for the concept of panspermia. The findings
> will be published in the May 2006 issue of Icarus, the international
> journal of solar system studies.
> Panspermia is the idea that life--hitchhiking on rocks ejected from
> meteorite impacts on one world--could travel through space and seed
> other worlds with life under favorable conditions. Because the
> conditions under which panspermia could function are so harsh, however,
> there's been little direct testing of the hypothesis.
> "That might have been in the back of my mind when we recovered our
> payload," McLean said. McLean, along with a team of Texas State
> researchers, had placed an experiment package aboard the Columbia to
> investigate the interactions of three different bacterial species in
> microgravity. When the shuttle broke up over Texas, they assumed the
> experiment lost--until it turned up, relatively intact, in the parking
> lot of a Nacogdoches convenience store. "My first thinking when we found
> our payload was, 'Let's look for survivors.'"
> And survivors he found--a bacteria called Microbispora. Ironically,
> Microbispora wasn't one of the three species McLean expected to find.
> The slow-growing organism is normally found in the soil, and McLean
> determined that it had contaminated the experiment prior to launch. With
> the Icarus publication, McLean anticipates request for samples of this
> rugged strain to come in from researchers around the world.
> "This organism appears to have survived an atmospheric passage, with the
> heat and the force of impact," he said. "That's only about a fifth of
> the speed that something on a real meteorite would have to survive, but
> it is at least five or six times faster than what's been tested before.
> "This is important for panspermia, because if something survives space
> travel, it eventually has to get down to the Earth and survive passage
> through the atmosphere and impact. This doesn't prove anything--it just
> contributes evidence to the plausibility of panspermia. Realistically,
> that's all it can do," McLean said. "Out of respect for the seven people
> who gave their lives for this research, I feel it's very important these
> results don't get lost."
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Received on Wed 22 Feb 2006 01:40:58 PM PST

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