By the close of 2025, astronauts aren’t likely to be the sole life forms marking their presence on the lunar surface. Provided NASA’s planning navigates through political, technical, and financial hindrances, America aims to imprint fresh footprints on the Moon by late 2025. The mission, dubbed Artemis 3, proposes to transport the first human to the Moon since Apollo 17’s trailblazers in December 1972. With Artemis 3 as its inaugural launch, NASA plans a series of expeditions to the Artemis Polar Exploration Area at the 84-degree south latitude polar region.
The challenge lies in pinpointing a landing site that is both safe and scientifically intriguing. Yet, there’s an undeniable promise of significant revelations, potentially including the discovery of lunar life.
Is there life on the Moon?
Emerging studies indicate that future lunar south pole visitors should vigilantly seek life signs in the permanently shadowed, intensely cold craters, potentially inhabited by Earth-originated organisms. Prabal Saxena, a NASA Goddard Space Flight Center planetary researcher, posits, “Microbial life might withstand the severe conditions near the lunar south pole.”
“Our team’s astonishing finding is that, considering current research on microbial life survival ranges, there could be potentially livable niches in relatively sheltered areas on some airless bodies,” he further explains. Saxena suggests that the lunar south pole might host conditions permitting certain microbial life forms’ survival and sporadic growth.
“We’re focusing on identifying the specific organisms that could thrive in such regions, including potential exploration hotspots,” he added.
Life on the Moon: Earth-Born or Alien?
The concept that fragments of Earth may have reached the Moon as “Earth meteorites”, tossed into space by potent cosmic impacts, has been raised. However, NASA Goddard’s organic geochemist, Heather Graham, cautions that this doesn’t imply that terrestrial microbes survived such a space voyage. “While we observe the extraterrestrial transfer of organic molecules from meteorites in our terrestrial meteorite analysis, the same can’t be confidently said for microbes,” Graham clarified. “It’s an intriguing hypothesis but lacks supporting data for now.”
No contamination guidelines
As the research concludes, Graham highlights that human beings are likely the most substantial microbe vector to the Moon. “We’re nearing half a century of human and human-made objects on the lunar surface without strict contamination guidelines,” she notes. “Given the wealth of data on our exploration history and the impact record, we see humans as the most probable vector, with early terrestrial sources being secondary and less influential.” Summarily, any life detected on the Moon likely originates from Earth, yet this shouldn’t hinder our ceaseless exploration. Unveiling that microbes can endure lunar conditions could carry substantial implications.