Organic Molecules on the Moon
The questions of organic molecules and life on the moon might keep the
Society's Lunar Science Technical Committee debating for years. Here's some
brain fodder on that subject.
We seem to be overlooking some important facts:
- Organic molecules are a necessary but not sufficient indicator of life
as we know it. (Life as we know it consists of self-replicating
molecules based on long-chain hydrocarbon proteins.)
- Organic molecules can be created by non-living chemical processes.
- All we know about the moon below the surface layer of dust comes from
a few widely spaced core samples, some seismological readings, a little
bit of penetrating radar, and extrapolation of geological data based on
observations of the earth.
- The moon as we know it is geologically inactive and, except for the very
top surface of dust, maintains a constant, cool temperature. However,
the moon has a long history, and we have barely glimpsed the record of
- Even today, lunar transient events indicate that the moon is not
completely quiescent. Expulsion of volatiles from the moon is very
rare, but not zero.
- We think of the moon in terms of geological time scales. However, the
time scale of life is measured in milliseconds rather than millenia.
- Life, once it gets started, is very tenacious. As long as local
conditions will support the chemical reations, these molecules continue
to replicate themselves with a ferocity otherwise unobserved in the
- Terrestrial life exists in a very large range of temperatures,
pressures, and chemical environments.
So, I don't think we can say with certainty that there are no organic
on the moon. Or rather, I should say "in" the moon. Luna has been pummeled
with all sorts of amusing chunks of stuff since the beginning of the solar
system. Among those chunks are carbonaceous chondrites and water-ice
With no other data to go on, my best guess is that the conditions for
forms of life have existed on the moon in many (perhaps millions) of little
pockets of time and location over the past few billion years.
As to whether any of those events resulted in self-replicating
molecules, I must
remain firmly agnostic; at least until we get there and do some serious digging.
The most we can say is that, as best we can tell, it is unlikely that
life-supporting conditions exist today anywhere on the surface of the moon.
Copyright © 2007 Artemis Society International, for the
contributors. All rights reserved.
This web site contains many trade names and copyrighted articles and images.
ASI Web Team
Submit update to this page.
Maintained with WebSite Director.
Updated Mon, Aug 2, 1999.