To understand how life can be transported through space in a natural way, an international team of scientists launched a search among terrestrial chemolithotrophs. This term refers to microorganisms that can feed on minerals, extracting energy from them. For example, Leptospirillum ferrooxidans and Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans, which can oxidize meteoric iron.
But scientists were looking for a special specimen, an active thermoacidophilus that can survive in high temperatures and low pH levels, in order to survive the journey through space and the passage through the atmosphere of the planets. The search led to a microbe called Metallosphaera sedula, whose metabolism is based on the processing of metals. For food, he was given samples of meteorite NWA 1172, a 120-kilogram rock from space found in 2000.
Microbes were planted on fragments of this multimetallic meteorite, which were previously sterilized for the purity of the experiment. In parallel, another group of microbes was fed with crushed copper-iron-sulfur mineral chalcopyrite. Scientists have studied the metal ions formed by the activity of microbes in order to understand how suitable such "food" is for them.
In all experiments, the growth of the population of microbes on the meteorite significantly exceeded the indicators of the group that ate terrestrial minerals. M. Sedula felt great and actively penetrated deep into the porous structure of the meteorite. And this is a direct indication that microbes can survive while traveling through space, because they have the main thing - food.