NASA's Richard Hoover collects extraterrestrial microbes right here on Earth. He searches the most bizarre environments on Earth?areas that mimic the harsh conditions on other planets in our Solar System?for "extremophiles." He thinks some of these may have arrived on meteorites from outer space.
David Perlman writes in the San Francisco Chronicle about Hoove's expeditions to the boiling hot springs of Yellowstone, the ice layers et beneath Antarctica, and the deepest mines of Asia.
In California's Mono Lake, which is too salty and alkaline for any fish to live in it, he's found bacteria that thrives without oxygen?"the very kinds of microbes that could well be living?or at least might once have lived?somewhere else in the solar system." In Nevada's Pyramid Lake, he found "deep red and orange bacterial mats" in areas of the lake bottom where no oxygen exists, that get energy by metabolizing sulfur, meaning there could be life on boiling hot planets.
At the Vostok Russian Antarctic research station, where temperatures often reach 130 degrees below zero, he's looking for life in a mysterious lake that's almost 125 miles long and 3,200 feet deep. No one knows how a lake can exist unfrozen beneath miles of ice, but if there are living organisms in it, they must have been reproducing in that environment for at least 300 million years. Hoover and his Russian colleague, Sabit Abyzov, have been examining cores drilled from the Vostok ice that are 400,000 years old, where they've found living fungi, algae, bacteria, protozoa and diatoms. "That ice must be very much like the icy crust of Jupiter's moon Europa," Hoover says, "so is it too much to wonder whether all kinds of similar forms of life have existed up there, too?"
Skeptics question his theory that life arrived here from space. "Hoover makes outlandish claims without any evidence," says geochemist Jeffrey Bada. "He does not even appreciate what kinds of structures are associated with life, even here on Earth."
"That's ridiculous," says Hoover. "I can tell life when I see it, and I can tell fossil life forms, too?wherever they exist."
How do religious people deal with the idea of ET?
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