Did life on Earth originate when burning meteorites full of carbon molecules or single-celled organisms crashed to our planet and scattered their seeds? It's very possible, according to proponents of the theory of "panspermia." And now a group of researchers have proven that panspermia is technically possible, after a series of experiments that involved attaching bacteria-infested rocks to the front of a space capsule. Attached to the front of a space capsule, the rock was sent into space loaded with bacteria. According to Discovery's Michael Reilly:
When the capsule hit Earth's atmosphere, the rock was heated to at least 3,056 degrees Fahrenheit (1,680 degrees Centigrade). Most of it burned away, leaving only 8 millimeters of material behind. What was left was a gooey, melted white crust of quartz. The rock's original structure — along with visible microfossils — was preserved at the core. "This is a great positive result in searching for traces of extra-terrestrial life on meteorites," [National Center for Scientific Research scientist Frances] Westall said. "If ever Martians fossils land on Earth, we should be able to see them."
In other words, those "microfossils," or the bacteria, made it back to Earth in one piece. Even cooler, it seems this experiment also proves that Earth might be pansperminating other planets too. If our bacteria could make it into space then return to Earth, then it might also have made it offworld and crashed to Mars or Jupiter. So little chunks of Earthly bacteria might be breeding into superhumans in the upper atmosphere of Jupiter right now. [via Discovery] Thanks, Reilly!