Reasons to Believe

What's Hiding on the Moon?

Sometimes the things we search for turn up in the most unlikely places. Such may be the case in gaining information about the origin of life here on Earth. Perhaps the best place to look for it is on the surface of the Moon!

We have chemical evidence that primitive life was present here on our planet as early as 3.8 billion years ago. However, various weathering processes, such as the Late Heavy Bombardment, destroyed any fossils that may have remained. It turns out that the bombardment by asteroids that ruined the evidence on Earth may also have saved it. The asteroids that hit the Earth also blasted into orbit material from the planet, much of which ended up on the Moon. Since the Moon experiences very little erosion compared to Earth, a fair amount of that material should still be there.

Hugh Ross wrote an article last year where he discussed a variety of scientific reasons it would be a good idea to return to the Moon. While establishing a presence on the Moon can be quite expensive, it is far cheaper than going to other planets, and it can potentially serve as a base camp for easier exploration beyond the Moon. One of the benefits Ross discusses is the possibility of looking on the Moon for the fossils of life from early Earth.

While there is little doubt among scientists that exploration of the surface of the Moon will yield some material originally from Earth, there has been some concern whether any life present in that material would be obliterated by its eventual impact with the Moon. The impact would not only break up any larger meteorites but would cause intense heating and melting on the surface of the impactor. Questions about the extent of this damage motivated a recent computation project by a research team led by Ian Crawford and Emily Baldwin. A less technical discussion of their results can be seen here.

The scientists used commercially available software to calculate the peak pressures that a meteorite experiences when landing on the surface of the Moon to determine the likelihood of its survival. Their results confirm earlier estimates that substantial survivability is to be expected, especially in the case of lower velocities or glancing impacts. Crawford and Baldwin discuss some possible ways for locating these materials on the surface of the Moon. In agreement with Ross, they conclude that the search for Earth remnants during any future lunar mission would be of scientific value. As Ross points out, such a mission “realistically could help settle one of the great controversies of our time, namely the creation/evolution debates.”

Subjects: First Life on Earth

Dr. David Rogstad

Dr. Dave Rogstad received his PhD in physics from Caltech and worked over 30 years for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Though now retired, Dave continues to serve as an RTB board member and participates regularly in several RTB podcasts.