Noclevername

2014-Oct-27, 12:18 AM

https://what-if.xkcd.com/117/

What If XKCD has once again provided an insightful and humorous view of something often discussed here; How many bacterial spores can dance on could survive on a human-built spacecraft?

If we assume that 1 in 1,000 bacterial spores on Voyager were of a space-tolerant variety, and 1 in 10 of those is somewhere on the craft where UV light doesn't reach it, then that still leaves on the order of 10 million viable bacterial spores traveling on Voyager.

If they suffer a death rate of 30% per six years, as in one of the studies, then there would still be a million of them alive after 50 years, dying at a rate of 1 every 10 minutes. On the other hand, the author of the 2008 study speculated that microbes could avoid hits from cosmic radiation for extremely long time periods, and other sources have speculated about survival for thousands or even millions of years. But no one really knows.

For our Voyager bacteria, there's a higher death rate at first, for spores in more exposed positions, and a much lower one for the more protected ones. Today, it's quite possible there are thousands of bacterial spores still alive on Voyager 1 and 2, lurking quietly in the dead of space. Every few hours, days, or months, one of them degrades enough to no longer be viable.

Alas, poor micro-Yorick!

What If XKCD has once again provided an insightful and humorous view of something often discussed here; How many bacterial spores can dance on could survive on a human-built spacecraft?

If we assume that 1 in 1,000 bacterial spores on Voyager were of a space-tolerant variety, and 1 in 10 of those is somewhere on the craft where UV light doesn't reach it, then that still leaves on the order of 10 million viable bacterial spores traveling on Voyager.

If they suffer a death rate of 30% per six years, as in one of the studies, then there would still be a million of them alive after 50 years, dying at a rate of 1 every 10 minutes. On the other hand, the author of the 2008 study speculated that microbes could avoid hits from cosmic radiation for extremely long time periods, and other sources have speculated about survival for thousands or even millions of years. But no one really knows.

For our Voyager bacteria, there's a higher death rate at first, for spores in more exposed positions, and a much lower one for the more protected ones. Today, it's quite possible there are thousands of bacterial spores still alive on Voyager 1 and 2, lurking quietly in the dead of space. Every few hours, days, or months, one of them degrades enough to no longer be viable.

Alas, poor micro-Yorick!