A NASA scientist, Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, claims to have found tiny fossils inside meteorites recovered from the Spanish Ebro Delta waterway. He found the remains of the micro-organisms during an internal inspection of three of the oldest meteorites to have yet been discovered. Hoover claims that the microbes could not be of earthly origin, because if they were there would be traces or evidence of nitrogen in and around the objects from space. A meteorite is a meteor that has slammed into earth for a final rest.
I concede some skepticism. The theory of “panspermia,”which suggests that life on our Earth originated elsewhere, has never been my cup of tea. Life had to develop somewhere, so, why not here? I see it as the suggestion of a sort of astronomical inferiority complex. But I also concede some interest in the idea that life in all its forms transmits through space; not with a single starting point, but with some unknown evolution, distributing itself through the universe. This idea is within the sphere of interest of astrobiology, and NASA astrobiologists continue to assess the possibility.
Hoover asserts that the fossils are the remains of extraterrestrial life forms that grew on the parent bodies of the meteorites when liquid water was present, long before the meteorites entered the Earth’s atmosphere. A finding of bacteria, if indeed from deep space, is a radical notion. Bacteria are not life forms that thrive in isolation. Bacteria as a rule live in the guts of animals and humans, or on the roots of certain plants, and, in our experience, convert nitrogen to something more usable. The bacteria we know are among those sustaining mechanisms that break down waste organic material, dispose of it, and make for a viable environment. Bacteria are extremely flexible, owing perhaps to their millions of years of development, and have a capacity for rapid growth, reproduction, and a very long age span. The oldest known bacteria fossils are about three and a half billion years old.
David McKay, another NASA researcher, claimed Martian life inside a meteorite found in Antarctica in 1984. Scientists tell us that five trillion Martian rocks have over time fallen to Earth. They estimate that tons of Martian material must have come to land on Earth, although only a few Martian meteorites have been found.
Rudy Schild, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics and editor of the Journal of Cosmology, which carried Hoover’s report, said: “The implications are that life is everywhere, and that life on Earth may have come from other planets.” Dr. Hoover says, “I believe these findings indicate that life is not restricted to Earth, but is broadly distributed, even outside our solar system.”