Starting in the 1970s, British astronomers Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe rekindled interest in panspermia. By careful spectroscopic observation and analysis of light from distant stars they found new evidence, traces of life, in the intervening dust. They also proposed that comets, which are largely made of water-ice, carry bacterial life across galaxies and protect it from radiation damage along the way. One aspect of this research program, that interstellar dust and comets contain organic compounds, has been pursued by others as well. It is now widely accepted that space contains the "ingredients" of life. This development could be the first hint of a huge paradigm shift. But mainstream science has not accepted the hard core of modern panspermia, that whole cells seeded life on Earth.
Hoyle and Wickramasinghe also broadened or generalized panspermia to include a new understanding of evolution. While accepting the fact that life on Earth evolved over the course of about four billion years, they say that the genetic programs for higher evolution cannot be explained by random mutation and recombination among genes for single-celled organisms, even in that long a time: the programs must come from somewhere beyond Earth. In a nutshell, their theory holds that all of life comes from space. It incorporates the original panspermia much as General Relativity incorporates Special Relativity. Their expanded theory can well be termed "strong" panspermia.
On a different track, in the early 1970s, British chemist and inventor James Lovelock proposed the theory that life controls Earth's environment to make it suitable for life. The theory, which William Golding suggested he call Gaia, has gained a small but growing, sometimes cultish following. However, seen from a Darwinian perspective, the Gaia theory looks teleological. It is hard to imagine how purposeful Gaian processes that take millions of years could be discovered by trial and error. In response to such criticism, Lovelock has retreated slightly from some of his earlier bold claims for Gaia. Here we endorse Lovelock's theory at its original strength. We propose that Gaian processes are not blindly found and peculiar to Earth, but are pre-existent and universal — life from space brings Gaian processes with it. We suggest that Gaian processes are necessary for higher forms of life to emerge and succeed on any planet.
We are calling the union of Lovelock's Gaia with Hoyle and Wickramasinghe's expanded theory of panspermia Cosmic Ancestry. This account of evolution and the origin of life on Earth is profoundly different from the prevailing scientific paradigm. The new theory challenges not merely the answers but the questions that are popular today. Cosmic Ancestry implies, we find, that life can only descend from ancestors at least as highly evolved as itself. And it means, we believe, that there can be no origin of life from nonbiological matter. Without supernatural intervention, therefore, we conclude that life must have always existed. Although these conclusions cut across the boundaries between science, philosophy, and religion, we believe they are grounded in good evidence. And new data that support many aspects of Cosmic Ancestry are coming in rapidly. In the following pages we will explain how these and other recent developments support Cosmic Ancestry:
19 May 1995: two scientists at Cal Poly showed that bacteria can survive without any metabolism for at least 25 million years; probably they are immortal.
The case for Cosmic Ancestry is not yet proven, of course. At this point the best reason to notice it is that the mainstream darwinian paradigm does not satisfactorily account for sustained evolutionary progress and the origin of life on Earth. We will mention some of the flaws in the darwinian account, but our primary purpose is to present Cosmic Ancestry as a viable scientific account of evolutionary progress and the origin of life on Earth.
9 Jan 2013: The Russian Academy of Sciences will conduct biological experiments in space.
The Panspermia Paradox by Caleb A. Scharf, Astrobiology Center, Columbia University, posted on Scientific American, 15 Oct 2012.
25 Sep 2012: ....Life on Earth may have originated beyond our solar system.
"Astrobiology: Frontier or fiction" (2 separate articles): Antonio Lazcano, "Maintaining the plausible" and Kevin P. Hand, "The last great experiment" [html], doi:10.1038/488160a, p160-161 v488, Nature, 9 Aug 2012.
24 Jun 2012: ESA's research on the International Space Station is giving credibility to theories that life came from outer space....
13 Apr 2012: Physicists estimate that life from Earth could have seeded other planets.
19 Mar 2012: ...Whether the course of Evolution can... be represented as an unpacking of an original complex.... William Bateson, 1914.
10 Oct 2011: Neopanspermia and pathospermia are new terms introduced in a paper available online today.
13 Sep 2011: The Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology (BCAB)....
Earth Could Spread Life Across The Milky Way by Tammy Plotner, Universe Today, 1 Sep 2011.
24 Aug 2011: Panspermia is more likely than we thought, a new analysis reveals.
Unscientific ambivalence over Panspermia, Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology, 13 Aug 2011.
14 Jul 2011: A new video about panspermia includes a range of topics....
Origins and Evolution of Life: An Astrobiological Perspective [publisher's promo], Muriel Gargaud, Purificación López-García and Hervé Martin, eds., 526 pages, ISBN-10: 9780521761314, Cambridge University Press, Jan 2011.
The Biological Big Bang. Panspermia and the Origins of Life [amazon.com promo], N. Chandra Wickramasinghe, ed., 718 pages, ISBN-10: 9780982955222, Cosmology Science Publishers, 3 Dec 2010.
28 Feb 2011: A two-hour TV program about panspermia and related topics is available on the Internet.
25 Jan 2011: Chandra Wickramasinghe has a new article about panspermia, available online.
The DNA Sequencer That Could Go To Mars by Matthew Herper, Forbes.com, 14 Dec 2010.
2 Nov 2010: The software problem for the origin of life is not ignored, for once....
13 May 2010: A brief history of panspermia... is available online.
10 May 2010: We Are Not Alone, a new book about astrobiology.
9 Apr 2010 How life might travel through space? (Points to a video about rotifers.)
Margaret R. O'Leary, Anaxagoras and the Origin of Panspermia Theory [publisher's promo], iUniverse, May 2008.
2 Mar 2010: Thomas Alva Edison believed life on Earth came from space.
26 Feb 2010: Neil deGrasse Tyson endorses panspermia in a ten minute video.
4 Feb 2010: Chandra Wickramasinghe reviews the case for panspermia in a new article.
14 Oct 2009: Instead of life originating here on Earth..., perhaps it came from somewhere else....
12 Jul 2009: Phobus-Grunt will fly specimens of Earthly life to Mars and back.
9 Jun 2009: A brief introduction to panspermia ...is available online.
6 May 2009: Freeman Dyson thinks panspermia is more likely if life can adapt to the vacuum of space.
7 Apr 2009: Stephen Hawking endorses panspermia in a recorded presentation at Arizona State University.
4 Mar 2009: James Lovelock's newest book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia
18 Feb 2009: Mosquito survives in outer space.
Origin Of Life: The Panspermia Theory by Sonali S. Joshi, Northwestern University, 2 Dec 2008.
10 Sep 2008: Tardigrades survived ten days in space on the European Space Agency's Foton M3 mission last September.
21 Jun 2008: Panspermia is considered in depth....
22 Apr 2008: Richard Dawkins endorses panspermia in a movie about Intelligent Design.
22 Apr 2008: Three YouTube videos about panspermia
Astrobiology, an updated list of news items from New Scientist.
15 Nov 2007: We could have alien origins, according to ESA.
Panspermia, Wikipedia.org, revised 2 Oct 2007. "The panspermia hypothesis was dormant until 1743 when it appeared posthumously in the writings of Benoît de Maillet."
Fraser Cain interviews Dr. Pamela Gay [find link to MP3], Astronomy Cast, 4 Sep 2007. (Amino acids, or nucleotides?!)
Andrew Lawler, "Astrobiology Fights for Its Life" [summary], 10.1126/science.315.5810.318, p 318-321 v 315, Science, 19 Jan 2007.
10 May 2007: E.O. Wilson thinks panspermia is likely.
Are we all Martians?, by Sandrine Ceurstemont, FirstScience.com, 2 Feb 2007.
Did Life Begin In Space?, by Kathryn Garfield, Discover Magazine, Nov 2006.
Indiana Princeton Tennessee Astrobiology Initiative.
9 Aug 2006: Life may have arrived from outer space on a comet — BBC.
Australian Centre for Astrobiology, Macquarie University (redirected to the University of New South Wales).
16 May 2006: NASA's Astrobiology program.... a four-part essay tells the story.
2 May 2006: Once one planet comes down with life, they all get it. — Jeff Moore, NASA.
14 Apr 2006: Astrobiology legitimately broadens the terms of exobiology....
7 Feb 2006: Gerda Horneck of the German Aerospace Center has spent her career studying panspermia.
30 Jan 2006: More survivors of the Columbia disintegration have been found by biologists at Texas State University.
20 Dec 2005: Life as We Do Not Know It, by Peter Ward.
9 Nov 2005: Lichens survive in space aboard ESA's Foton M-2 mission.
Limericks about ballistic panspermia (funny!), The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form, 2005.
28 Oct 2005: Panspermia is reconsidered in Scientific American.
8 Jun 2005: NASA and LITU — recent elaborations on two astrobiology research programs.
Instant Expert: Astrobiology, by Stephen Battersby, NewScientist.com, 18 Apr 2005.
5 Apr 2005: Chandra Wickramasinghe's scientific autobiography.
Detritus of life abounds in the atmosphere (not necessariy from space), by Fred Pearce, NewScientist.com, 31 Mar 2005.
29 Mar 2005: Micro-organisms could be transported....
20 Jan 2005: Panspermia is how life is spread throughout the universe — J. Craig Venter.
16 Dec 2004: A history of astrobiology from a NASA perspective.
Panspermia on RedOrbit.com, [n.d.] publicised 19 Oct 2004.
Life In The Universe Could Be Just About Everywhere, by Dan Whipple, SpaceDaily.com, 6 May 2004.
24 Apr 2004: John Rummel is NASA's planetary protection officer (The New York Times).
24 Feb 2004: Nature notices panspermia.
Centro de Astrobiología, 28850 Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid Spain.
William Safire, "Look Up There" [text], The New York Times, 7 Jan 2004. "...Life: Where does it come from?..."
2003, November 15: Microorganisms may have spread throughout the galaxy.
2003, October 22: The origin of the word "panspermia".
Anne McIlroy, "Life theories" [text], p F8, The Globe and Mail, Canada, 4 Oct 2003.
2003, August 25: For travel between planets... panspermia seems entirely possible.
2003, July 26: SETI looks at panspermia.
2003, June 21: A transcript of Thursday's Internet chat about about Cosmic Ancestry is available.
"The Indestructable Worm" [abstract], p A34, The New York Times, 7 May 2003. "If a tiny soil worm could do it, why not a hardy bacterium?"
2003, March 23: Wales television features Chandra Wickramasinghe.
Panspermia, by David Darling, The Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy, and Spaceflight.
Panspermia, by Brig Klyce, ISCID Encyclopedia of Science and Philosophy, posted 10 Feb 2003.
2003, January 29: A discussion of panspermia.
Astrobiology Magazine, Responsible NASA Official: Helen Matsos.
Panspermia Theories: Annotated Bibliography..., by Norman Redington and Karen Ræ Keck, M.I.T.
2002, June 6: Two New Astrobiology Journals.
2002, March 11: Tardigrades in space?
"What if we are all space aliens?", Popular Science, 2001.
...Carl Sagan Center To Focus On Life In The Universe, by Leonard David, Space.com, 13 December 2001.
the Astrobiology Society of Britain, formerly UK Astrobiology Forum and Network.
2001, August 20: Sir Fred Hoyle died today. He was 86.
2001, August 13: Pseudo-panspermia is becoming mainstream.
2001, August 2: Web article about panspermia.
2000, October 30: Panspermia is reconsidered....
Panspermia theoretically possible, say scientists, NASA, Ames, 13 January 2000.
1999, December 23: Lord Kelvin's address to British scientists, in 1871.
John Gribbin, "Panspermia revisited" [link | pdf], arXiv:astro-ph/9909013v1, 1 Sep 1999.