A recent news article says that the lander Philae on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko 67P, has discovered a

rich array of organics

and it quotes one leading scientist as saying it is a

a frozen primordial soup

While "organics" don't necessarily mean life, (see related question What is meant by 'Organics' when discussing space exploration? ) it does offer the chance. On the other hand, DNA without life seems unlikely (there are some varied opinions on the matter)

Is Philae or any other space craft able to identify DNA?

Scope: past or current, spacecraft or lander.

  • $\begingroup$ And I'd like to add if DNA could be related to the Lyman Alpha forest? A complex set of spectral absorption lines which I understand comes from many relatively large and diverse and yet unidentified molecules in the interstellar/intergalactic medium. $\endgroup$
    – LocalFluff
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ That sounds like a different question, your question is related to telescopic /remote observation, while this one is related to physical testing on location. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 16:14

1 Answer 1


The surest currently known way to detect DNA and analyze it to rule out sample contamination with genetic material from the Earth hinges on rapidly multiplying the DNA molecules via PCR (polymerase chain reaction).

No PCR kits have been deployed to space so far. However, this is going to change: Boeing is considering sending Amplyus' miniPCR platform to the ISS and starting Genes in Space program.

The winner of the 2015 experiment contest is Anna-Sophia Boguraev (below (right), with Cady Coleman(left)).

enter image description here

Source: http://www.minipcr.com/wp-content/uploads/PCR-in-Space--GenomeWeb--Genes-in-Space-20150409.pdf

Automating the analysis onboard an unmanned probe/rover is possible but not compatible with the scientific requirement of reproducibility. You certainly want the DNA to be aliquotted to different laboratories to avoid any allegations of fraud and reduce probability of error.


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