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Bacteria spent three years in space outside the International Space Station, and some survived the duration of the journey. Exobiology, now astrobiology, studies the idea of life surviving or even beginning in space. The biggest bacteria could, the scientists surmise, survive the shortest possible trip.
Scientists put dried bacteria on the International Space Station (ISS) for three years to emulate conditions on a trip to Earth from another planet. Many of the bacteria at least partially survived, which helps to test one of the parameters for the theory of panspermia—that life on Earth originated somewhere else and was brought here on an asteroid or other interspace body.
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Panspermia is one of a handful of major theories about the origins of life on Earth. The overall field called abiogenesis includes all the stages of life, from its very inception to what we see today, because everything that lives is consequential to the very first thing that turned from non-living to living.
There’s a “bottleneck” in the way we explain how life began: We can account for the different ingredients required for life, and we can point to the conditions in the environment and how the Earth developed, but scientists can’t explain with certainty what the flashpoint was where all the components came together. It’s not enough to set the flour on the counter—someone has to tip it into the bowl.
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Panspermia emerged to help close this loop, suggesting some initial steps, where chemicals form themselves into the building blocks that are on their way to forming life, arrive after a long flight as meteors or
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