Origins of life and evolution of the biosphere

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 521–545 | Cite as

Survival of Life on Asteroids, Comets and Other Small Bodies

  • B. C. Clark
  • A. L. Baker
  • A. F. Cheng
  • S. J. Clemett
  • D. McKay
  • H. Y. McSween
  • C. M. Pieters
  • P. Thomas
  • M. Zolensky


The ability of living organisms to survive on the smaller bodies in our solar system is examined. The three most significant sterilizing effects include ionizing radiation, prolonged extreme vacuum, and relentless thermal inactivation. Each could be effectively lethal, and even more so in combination, if organisms at some time resided in the surfaces of airless small bodies located near or in the inner solar system. Deep within volatile-rich bodies, certain environments theoretically might provide protection of dormant organisms against these sterilizing factors. Sterility of surface materials to tens or hundreds of centimeters of depth appears inevitable, and to greater depths for bodies which have resided for long periods sunward of about 2 A.U.


Radiation Organic Chemistry Geochemistry Solar System Living Organism 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. C. Clark
    • 1
  • A. L. Baker
    • 2
  • A. F. Cheng
    • 3
  • S. J. Clemett
    • 4
  • D. McKay
    • 5
  • H. Y. McSween
    • 6
  • C. M. Pieters
    • 7
  • P. Thomas
    • 8
  • M. Zolensky
    • 5
  1. 1.Advanced Planetary Studies GroupLockheed Martin AstronauticsDenver
  2. 2.Planetary Protection LaboratoryLockheed Martin AstronauticsDenver
  3. 3.Johns Hopkins Applied Physics LaboratoryLaurel
  4. 4.Dept. of ChemistryStanford UniversityStanford
  5. 5.NASA Johnson Space CenterHouston
  6. 6.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of TennesseeKnoxville
  7. 7.Department of Geological SciencesBrown UniversityProvidence
  8. 8.Cornell UniversityIthaca

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