It Came From Outer Space: DNA Survives Space flight

DNA survives space flight

Researchers find that DNA survives space flight and atmospheric re-entry. Researcher applied DNA plasmids to the outer shells of a rocket and launched it into space. Upon re-entry they found that the DNA was still intact and able to transfer genetic information.

The theory that life on earth were seeded from space is not a new concept. DNA is a rather hardy molecule and its known to keep being stable for a really long time. Now researchers from University of Zürich have tested just how resilient the molecule is. By launching it into space and bringing it back to earth.

DNA Survives Space flight: Space Seed

The DNA samples in the form of a plasmid, a common way for bacteria to store their genetic information, was applied to the outer shell of the payload section of a rocket using pipettes. Scientists launched the rocket complete with the plasmid payload into space and returned it back to earth. After retrieving the payload structure they found that DNA molecules were still on the application points. Researchers were able to recover most DNA from the groves of the screw heads. The plasmids were viable, able to transfer their stored information to bacterial and connective tissue cells.

The experiment called DARE ((DNA atmospheric re-entry experiment) were supposed to just investigate the effect of gravity on gene expression in human cells. During the planning of the mission researchers wondered if the outer shell of the rocket also could be used to test stability of biosignatures i.e. DNA.

The quickly assembled experiment was actually supposed to be a pre-test and the findings really surprised the lead author Dr. Thiel. “We were completely surprised to find so much intact and functionally active DNA.”

The implications that DNA survives space flight are numerous. Could life have come from space and survived re-entry into earth’s atmosphere? This payload experiment suggest that at least it’s possible. That DNA can survive on rockets going into space is probably something we should keep in mind when looking for the building blocks of life on other planets. We could unwittingly have contaminated our landers with life from our own planet.