Humans are ill-equipped for traveling into outer space, but the same isn’t true for other earthly life forms. Should we send funguses to colonize our galaxy, before we go? Via Phenomenica:
In 2008 the European Space Agency sent a suitcase-sized experiment package to the International Space Station filled with organic compounds and living organisms to test their reaction to outer space.
When astronauts venture on a spacewalk, hours are spent preparing protective suits to survive the hostile conditions. However, no effort was made to protect the bacteria, seeds, lichen and algae attached to the outside of the space station.
The samples returned to Earth in 2009. Lichen have proven to be tough cookies – back on Earth, some species continue to grow normally. You can freeze it, thaw it, vacuum dry it and expose it to radiation, but lichen still survive.
Living organisms surviving in open space supports the idea of ‘panspermia’ — life spreading from one planet to another, or even between solar systems. It seems possible that organisms could colonize planets by hitching rides on asteroids.