Hitching a ride on a spaceship

Hitching a ride on a spaceship

A sneaky stowaway in space

Humans are very vulnerable in space and can't survive without a space suit or space ship. But there was one stowaway from Earth that survived everything that space could throw at it.

Surveyor 3


In 1967 an unmanned spacecraft called Surveyor 3 landed on the moon. It was supposed to be unmanned, but it did carry some life from Earth. A common bacterium called Streptococcus mitis had hitched a ride. This fact would never have been discovered except that some time later Apollo 12 landed right next door and returned some parts of Surveyor 3 to the Earth for study.

Truly amazing: grown up bacteria!

What they found was truly amazing: living bacterial spores that were woken up and grew into perfectly normal bacteria. This was after three years in a perfect vacuum enduring freezing, frying and bombardment with ultra high levels of radiation.


Pete Conrad, the commander of Apollo 12, summed it up, he said, "I always thought the most significant thing that we ever found on the moon was that little bacteria who came back and lived and nobody ever said anything about it."

Today it is even believed that life may have originally come to the Earth from deep space aboard a meteorite. This has led to the theory of Panspermia which is the theory that we may all turn out to be descended from germs from space! But that's another story!