Scientists have long speculated over what processes might have given rise to life on other worlds.
One such process, which is known as panspermia, involves life from one planet being transported to another on asteroids and comets that have come into contact with an inhabited world.
Given how long it would take to carry organisms such vast distances however, it would need to be possible for them to survive in the vacuum of space for perhaps millions of years at a time.
While this might sound impossible, one particularly hardy Earth bacterium has recently demonstrated that the idea of surviving for extreme lengths of time in space may not be all that far-fetched.
Known as Deinococcus radiodurans, the bacterium – which was originally found inside a can of meat – was found to have had no trouble surviving on a special platform situated outside the space station.
Previous studies have also indicated that it can survive much longer – at least three years.
“These investigations help us to understand the mechanisms and processes through which life can exist beyond Earth, expanding our knowledge on how to survive and adapt in the hostile environment of outer space,” said biochemist Tetyana Milojevic from the University of Vienna.
“The results suggest that survival of D. radiodurans in LEO (Low Earth Orbit) for a longer period is possible due to its efficient molecular response system and indicate that even longer, farther journeys are achievable for organisms with such capabilities.”