Significance to Astrobiology of Micro-Organisms in Permafrost and Ice

  • Richard B. Hoover
  • David Gilichinsky
Part of the NATO Science Series book series (ASEN2, volume 76)


Astrobiology is a newly emerging multidisciplinaiy field concerned with the limitations and distribution of life on Earth and in the Cosmos. The discovery of chemical and mineral biomarkers and possible microfossils in the Allen Hills meteorite (ALH84001) indicated that microbial life may have existed on Mars more than 3 billion years ago. Meteorites on Earth that have come from the moon and Mars (SNC meteorites) establish that impact ejection processes can result in the transplanetary transfer of astromaterials. It is now widely recognized that the transfer of cometary water, organics, and volatiles to early Earth and the impact synthesis of organics may have played a significant role in the Origin of Life on Earth, by Chyba and Sagan, in 1992 [12]; Murnma in 1996[41]; Delsemme in 1997 [13]; Oro et al in 1980 [45]. New results by Mosjis and Arrhenius in 1996 [40] indicate that microbial life has existed on Earth for the past 3.5 billion years. Over the eons, deep impacts of asteroids, comets and meteorites could have ejected large quantities of debris into space from planets or frozen moons. It is now clear that ancient Earth (and possibly even ancient Mars) was teeming with microbial life. Ejecta from marine sediments, permafrost, deep crustal rocks or polar ice must have contained biominerals, organic chemicals, microfossils, and perhaps even intact cells and cryopreserved viable microorganisms. The possibility of biological cross contamination of other planets, moons, comets, and the parent bodies of meteorites can not be excluded. The long held paradigm that Earth represents a closed ecosystem must be re-examined.


Environmental Scan Electron Microscope Microbial Ecosystem Microbial Life Cryoconite Hole Environmental Scan Electron Microscope Image 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard B. Hoover
    • 1
  • David Gilichinsky
    • 2
  1. 1.Astrobiology Group LeaderSpace Sciences Laboratory/ES82 NASA/Marshall Space Flight CenterHuntsvilleUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Soil Science and PhotosynthesisRussian Academy of SciencesPushchinoRussia

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