Astrobiologist talks "Panspermia"... Feb 7, 2006 7:30:16 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Feb 7, 2006 7:30:16 GMT -6
Panspermia - A Radiating Experience
Berlin, Germany (SPX) Feb 07, 2006
In this interview with Astrobiology Magazine, Gerda Horneck of the German Aerospace Center discusses the effects of space radiation on life. She has spent her career studying the controversial concept of Panspermia – that life could be transported between different planets by meteorites. She has also looked at issues faced by human astronauts as they venture into space and explore other worlds.
I was trained as a geneticist and radiation biologist, so I've always been interested in what radiation does to biology. On Earth, we have ionizing radiation and solar ultraviolet radiation. So we asked the question that, if we bring organisms and human beings into space, what does the radiation do?
This was 30 years ago. Back then, Panspermia was not a fashionable theory; nobody liked it. Only after the martian meteorites were found did we realize, oh, yeah, material can be transported between the planets. Then Imre Friedman detected endolithic organisms – microbes living inside rocks - and so the picture came together that it might be possible for living creatures to be transported between the different planets. Much of my research was spent on identifying the different steps that are necessary for the interplanetary transport of life. We did either simulation experiments or experiments in space to see under what conditions it could happen.
Now, with our neighbor planet Mars being of so much interest, and so many missions going there, I'm again interested in the habitability of that planet, but again from the point of view of radiation. How damaging is the radiation for organic molecules, for possible life forms that could exist there, or for life forms being transported to Mars? And because I'm with the Institute of Air and Space Medicine, I extend that to see how habitable Mars could be for human beings.
Read the full interview here at Space daily.com: www.spacedaily.com/reports/Panspermia_A_Radiating_Experience.html
When the first exo-biological organism is discovered and revealed, then Astrobiology will be accepted as a "real" field.