Encyclopedia of Astrobiology

Living Edition
| Editors: Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James Cleaves, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Michel Viso


  • Gerda Horneck
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27833-4_899-3


The term Lithopanspermia describes a scenario of interplanetary transport of microorganism by use of meteorites. It involves three basic steps: (i) the escape process, that is, removal to space of biological material, which has survived being lifted from surface to high altitudes by impact ejection; (ii) interim state in space, that is, survival of the biological material over timescales comparable with interplanetary or interstellar passage; (iii) the entry process, that is, nondestructive deposition of the biological material on another planet. All three steps of lithopanspermia are now accessible to experimental testing in ground simulation facilities as well as in exposure experiments in space.


The possibility of meteorite-mediated interplanetary transport of life was already considered in the 1870s by von Helmholtz and Thomson (Lord Kelvin), who favored a version of Panspermiain which fragments of extraterrestrial rocks carrying microbes as blind passengers...


Biological Material Basic Step Exposure Experiment Terrestrial Planet Life System 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Radiation BiologyDLR German Aerospace Center, Institute of Aerospace MedicineKölnGermany