SAN MARCOS, Texas, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- A Texas State University professor says a bacterial experiment package's survival of the space shuttle Columbia disaster has broad scientific implications.
The spacecraft broke apart over East Texas in 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard. At the time, biology Professor Robert McLean thought his bacterial experiment on board was destroyed, but it was later found mostly intact in a Nacogdoches, Texas, convenience store parking lot, the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman reported Wednesday.
McLean found a strain of bacteria called Microbispora had survived the disaster, supporting a theory called panspermia, which posits life can travel through space from one world to another on meteorites.
McLean, the American-Statesman noted, cautioned the finding does not prove panspermia, since the bacteria traveled only about one-fifth the speed a meteorite would travel. But, he said, it was at least six times faster than anything tested before.
The finding will be published in the May issue of the journal Icarus.