The Moon

Our Moon (Selene) is apparently lifeless.  It is almost totally dry.  If water exists, this will be only in the form of ice that has come from cometary impacts and this will only occur near the poles, in deep shadow.  There is no atmosphere, so the Moon is in the vacuum of space.  The surface temperatures alternate between extreme heat and extreme cold, as day turns to night and back again.  It is also exposed to extremely high levels of radiation.  Overall the Moon appears to be totally inhospitable towards life, even microbial life.   Even so,  two lunar rock samples recovered y Apollo 12 contained amino acids.  Where did these originate?  Cometary impact is the most likely explanation, though this is not proven.

(above) Lunar soil and rocks from Apollo 12 are unloaded from an aircraft. November 1969
The discovery of archaea microbes deep in the Earth has led some planetary scientists and microbiologists to re-think the idea of the Moon as a lifeless world.  Perhaps microbial life does exist on the Moon several meters below the surface, from where samples have never been collected.  Earth rocks containing microbes have undoubtedly reached the Moon.  It is estimated that several million tonnes of Earth rock has been ejected into space since life gained a foothold on Earth, through meteorite, asteroid, and comet impacts.  Some of this material has certainly landed on the Moon, and some of the material that landed almost certainly contained microbial life.  Whether it survived the trauma of launch, space travel, landing and the lunar environment is an open question, but it is something we should keep an open mind about.

© All images NASA, unless shown


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