j_craig_venter's picture
A leading scientist of the 21st century for Genomic Sciences; Co-Founder, Chairman, Synthetic Genomics, Inc.; Founder, J. Craig Venter Institute; Author, A Life Decoded
Genomics Researcher; Founder & President, J. Craig Venter Science Foundation

Life is ubiquitous throughout the universe. Life on our planet earth most likely is the result of a panspermic event (a notion popularized by the late Francis Crick).

DNA, RNA and carbon based life will be found wherever we find water and look with the right tools. Whether we can prove life happens, depends on our ability to improve remote sensing and to visit faraway systems. This will also depend on whether we survive as a species for a sufficient period of time. As we have seen recently in the shotgun sequencing of the Sargasso Sea, when we look for life here on Earth with new tools of DNA sequencing we find life in abundance in the microbial world. In sequencing the genetic code of organisms that survive in the extremes of zero degrees C to well over boiling water temperatures we begin to understand the breadth of life, including life that can thrive in extremes of caustic conditions of strong acids to basic pH's that would rapidly dissolve human skin. Possible indicators of panspermia are the organisms such as Deinococcus radiodurans, which can survive millions of RADs of ionizing radiation and complete desiccation for years or perhaps millennia. These microbes can repair any DNA damage within hours of being reintroduced into an aqueous environment.

Our human centric view of life is clearly unwarranted. From the millions of genes that we have just discovered in environmental organisms over the past months we learn that a finite number of themes are used over and over again and could have easily evolved from a few microbes arriving on a meteor or on intergalactic dust. Panspermia is how life is spreads throughout the universe and we are contributing to it from earth by launching billions of microbes into space.