The sterile moon may still hold hints of how life began on Earth

Lunar south pole ice may be worth protecting even if contamination elsewhere isn’t a risk


After decades of human and robotic exploration, we still haven’t found evidence that alien life ever existed on the moon.

NASA/Ames Research Center/Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project

No life and not much potential, Science News, January 17, 1970 —

The lack of life on the moon, or even of biological compounds that might under some circumstance lead to it, had been expected long before Apollo 11 went there….The closest thing to an exception comes from … reports that at least the elements necessary for synthesis of organic compounds are present in some lunar rock types, but conditions on the moon leave them far removed from the compounds themselves.


The moon still looks barren. Decades of exploration has found no evidence for life, so planetary scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., and colleagues have recommended easing mission rules for protecting the moon from contamination in some cases (SN: 11/23/19, p. 10). But the moon’s south pole may still warrant safeguards. Orbiters saw evidence there of water ice, which may have arrived on comets, perhaps the same way Earth got its water and building blocks for life. Moon ice may have clues about the origins of life on Earth

Previously the staff writer for physical sciences at Science News, Maria Temming is the assistant managing editor at Science News Explores. She has bachelor's degrees in physics and English, and a master's in science writing.

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