Delivery of extraterrestrial amino acids to the primitive Earth. Exposure experiments in Earth orbit.
Access this Article
Search this Article
A large collection of micrometeorites has been recently extracted from Antarctic old blue ice. In the 50 to 100μm size range, the carbonaceous micrometeorites represent 80 % of the samples and contain 2 % of carbon. They might have brought more carbon to the surface of the primitive Earth than that involved in the present surficial biomass. Amino acids such as "-amino isobutyric acid have been identified in these Antarctic micrometeorites. Enantiomeric excesses of L-amino acids have been detected in the Murchison meteorite. A large fraction of homochiral amino acids might have been delivered to the primitive Earth via meteorites and micrometeorites. Space technology in Earth orbit offers a unique opportunity to study the behaviour of amino acids required for the development of primitive life when they are exposed to space conditions, either free or associated with tiny mineral grains mimicking the micrometeorites. Our objectives are to demonstrate that porous mineral material protects amino acids in space from photolysis and racemization (the conversion of L-amino acids into a mixture of L- and D-molecules) and to test whether photosensitive amino acids derivatives can polymerize in mineral grains under space conditions. The results obtained in BIOPAN-1 and BIOPAN-2 exposure experiments on board unmanned satellite FOTON are presented.
- Biological Sciences in Space
Biological Sciences in Space 12(2), 92-95, 1998-06
Japanese Society for Biological Sciences in Space