In the Vedic writings of ancient India, ideas of the cosmic nature of life stretch back as far as the 2nd millennium BC. The Universe was considered to be a living entity where every form of life, including life on Earth, found its genesis. These ideas are closely linked with the astronomy that the Greeks would adopt over 1500 years later.
Panspermia as a cosmological theory dates back at least as far as as the Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos (3rd century BC) who posited that seeds of life “spermata” are an ever-present attribute of the Universe.
In its most modern form the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe theory of cometary panspermia identifies comets in the solar system and beyond as the carriers and amplifiers of cosmic bacteria and viruses.
Although the panspermia thesis has remained unpopular with scientists for several decades, aspects of the theory are rapidly moving into the domain of scientific orthodoxy. The idea that complex organic molecules that may serve as building blocks of life are widespread in the interstellar space and in comets is accepted nowadays without dissent.
The stronger form of panspermia argues for the organic building blocks to be bacteria, viruses and genetic fragments, and such concepts still provoke controversy in some circles.
The scientific facts are, however, moving inexorably in support of this latter form of panspermia in which it is stated that our planet (and other planets too) are continually seeded with microorganisms from cometary sources. Life on Earth began with the ingress of microbes from comets, and the continuing rain of viral genes is responsible for the main effects of biological evolution that has take place over the past 4 billion years.
The scientific mission of ISPA is to conduct research directed towards confirming panspermia and establishing it as an irrefutable scientific fact. ISPA will be encouraging and supporting research over a broad front – interstellar matter, comets, meteorites and relevant areas of biology. A specific program we plan is to send a balloon mission to the stratosphere in search for extraterrestrial “spermata” – viruses, and other microorganisms. Such a program will augment similar programmes currently under way in Sheffield, UK. We plan to conduct studies on cometary material recovered from the stratosphere in conjunction with several well-recognised institutes with a view to identify bacteria and viruses of extraterrestrial origin.
We believe that adopting a correct world view in this regard will have profound implications for the future of humanity and provide a life-style (astroeconomics) for Homo sapiens to follow which may serve to share our planet (Earth) with all the other descendents of a cosmic LUCA* that pervades the cosmos in the form of RNA** viruses.
*LUCA stands for “last universal common ancestor” which is now considered to be an ensemble of viruses.
**RNA viruses are the types of viruses that become incorporated into the genetic material of life-forms e.g. HIV