Ancient moon life is a possibility, study says

A new study suggests the Earth's moon could have been habitable 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago.

Tyler MacDonald | Jul 25, 2018

Washington State University researchers Dirk Schulze-Makuch and Ian Crawford just released a study that suggests that there are two early windows of time in the lifetime of the Earth's moon that could have been habitable for life.

"If liquid water and a significant atmosphere were present on the early moon for long periods of time, we think the lunar surface would have been at least transiently habitable," Schulze-Makuch said.

The team's work examined data from recent space missions and analyses of soil samples and lunar rock to suggest that the moon is not as dry as we thought. In particular, the team examined fossilized cyanobacteria that suggests that the moon was habitable during their time 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago.

"It looks very much like the moon was habitable at this time," Schulze-Makuch said. "There could have actually been microbes thriving in water pools on the moon until the surface became dry and dead."

The study also suggests potential directions that future moon research can explore.

"In addition, experiments could be conducted in lunar environment simulation chambers in laboratories on Earth to observe whether microorganisms can maintain viability under the environmental conditions predicted to have existed on the early Moon," the researchers wrote.

"Indeed, the surface conditions predicted by Needham and Kring (2017) are not very different from those routinely produced in Mars simulation chambers,"they continued.

"Thus, we recommend utilizing both Moon simulation chambers on our planet and on the ISS to test whether there might have been an early habitability window on the Moon," they concluded.

The findings were published inAstrobiology.