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Life in Ice: Implications to AstrobiologyDuring the 2008 Tawani International Expedition Schirmacher Oasis/Lake Untersee Antarctica Expedition, living and instantly motile bacteria were found in freshly thawed meltwater from ice of the Schirmacher Oasis Lakes, the Anuchin Glacier ice and samples of the that perennial ice sheet above Lake Untersee. This phenomenon of living bacteria encased in ice had previously been observed in the 32,000 year old ice of the Fox Tunnel. The bacteria found in this ice included the strain FTR1T which was isolated and published as valid new species (Carnobacterium pleistocenium) the first validly published living Pleistocene organism still alive today. Living bacteria were also extracted from ancient ice cores from Vostok, Antarctica. The discovery that many strains of bacteria are able to survive and remain alive while frozen in ice sheets for long periods of time may have direct relevance to Astrobiology. The abundance of viable bacteria in the ice sheets of Antarctica suggests that the presence of live bacteria in ice is common, rather than an isolated phenomenon. This paper will discuss the results of recent studies at NSSTC of bacteria cryopreserved in ice. This paper advances the hypothesis that cryopreserved cells, and perhaps even viable bacterial cells, may exist today--frozen in the water-ice of lunar craters, the Polar Caps or craters of Mars; or in the permafrost of Mars; ice and rocks of comets or water bearing asteroids; or in the frozen crusts of the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. The existence of bacterial life in ice suggests that it may not be necessary to drill through a thick ice crust to reach liquid water seas deep beneath the icy crusts of Europa, Ganymede and Enceladus. The presence of viable bacteria in the ice of the Earth s Polar Caps suggests that the possibility that cryo-panspermia (i.e., the trans-planetary transfer of microbial life by impact ejection/spallation of bacteria-rich polar ice masses) deserves serious consideration and study as a possible natural phenomenon of the solar system that may have played a profoundly important role in the Origin of Life on Earth and the Distribution of Life in the Cosmos. The paper concludes with a consideration of the protective properties of ice by absorption of UV-B, UV-C, h-rays, gamma-rays and the high energy proton environment of the Jupiter Radiation Belt. A proposed instrument that may provide additional data on the potential survivability of microbial extremophiles encased in ice and subjected to the simulated space environment will be briefly described.
Document ID
20090034380
Document Type
Conference Paper
Authors
Hoover, Richard B. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
August 2, 2009
Subject Category
Exobiology
Report/Patent Number
M09-0592
M09-0544
Meeting Information
SPIE Optics + Photonics 2009 Conference(San Diego, CA)
Distribution Limits
Public
Copyright
Other