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Fraser
2005-Jul-26, 05:59 PM
SUMMARY: A new report from the National Academies' National Research Council says that NASA will need to be more careful to prevent Earth microbes hitching a ride on spacecraft from contaminating Mars. Recent findings show that there could be liquid water underneath the ground on Mars, and some Earth bacteria can survive in such hostile environments. According to the report, NASA is planning to implement new techniques that would reduce the risk for spacecraft flying after 2016.

View full article (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/nasa_take_measures_from_contaminating_mars.html)

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

lswinford
2005-Jul-26, 09:35 PM
I remember in high school reading The Andromeda Strain when the movie came out. The steps to make sure that the bio-workers who were to do the initial identification and control efforts for a bio-weapon (exo-bio in this case) bug.

Then there were the concerns when astronauts were coming back from the moon, what if they brought home some strange and nasty bugs?

So now we're worried again. Not that we'll bring something home, but we'll take it there instead. Maybe we really do need that insulating step that Gerard O'Neal envisioned starting with space habitats from materials mined on the moon. There is this biological distance. It is still corrupted or corruptable by us, but in a more controlled way. I just hope we don't get too far involved in protecting Mars from earth that we can't make our way there (or have no alternatives when our visitors to Mars are trying to return).

TuTone
2005-Jul-26, 10:02 PM
What would happen if we brought bugs/microbes from Earth to Mars? I'm thinking nothing, who cares. It would be fun to watch to see what happens, which I'm sure nothing visibly would happen to the naked eye. It would still look like an abandoned planet.

Guest_James
2005-Jul-27, 07:12 AM
Wow! This brings two things to my attention!

First: Do these sterilization methods already exist yet? If not, then will these new techniques for sterilization be usefull on earth when they do get developed?

Second: If the bacteria can survive or even thrive in the vaccuum and radiation conditions on the way to mars, then it can almost certainly survive anywhere on mars once we get there. NASA should do a mission to the moon and see whether any bacteria has survived on the leftover Apollo space equipment. My guess is no bacteria has survived in the vaccuum and radiation of space on the old Apollo space equipment, but who knows for sure? If it has, then we have most assuredly already contaminated both the moon and mars with bacteria.

The point: If bacteria can survive in the vaccuum and radiation of space without any water present, then bacteria doesn't even need water to survive in the first place. If that were true, then bacteria ought to be present everywhere and anywhere in our solar system. Finally, why didn't apollo missions show signs of life on the moon back in the 70s? Will future missions to the moon show bacteria from earth contamination?

Eric Vaxxine
2005-Jul-27, 12:29 PM
Bill Brysons book - A short history ... springs to mind. The Chapter about the microscopic world far outnumbering the big. Mars might already be fully loaded with microscopic life.

It is interesting that the vacuum of space and the 'deadly radiation' on Mars isn't enough to stop life from flourishing, even if it is our own.

A few years ago Mars was projected as totally lifeless.

In this respect, any object that lands on this planet can possibly take up a meaningfull existance too? <_<

antoniseb
2005-Jul-27, 12:33 PM
Originally posted by Guest_James@Jul 27 2005, 07:12 AM
NASA should do a mission to the moon and see whether any bacteria has survived on the leftover Apollo space equipment.
Actually, Apollo Twelve recovered a piece of a Surveyor lander that showed that microbes DID survive several years on the Moon. No need for a new mission, but the answer is not what we&#39;d want to hear.

GOURDHEAD
2005-Jul-27, 12:58 PM
Here (http://science.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines/ast14dec99_1.htm)is a candidate for surviving space then thriving in places like subsurface Mars. I wonder what we may have already left on the moon, Venus, Mars, Titan, and Jupiter.

As our capabilities to travel through space increase we will no doubt exchange microbes between Earth and wherever we go that has&#39;m and, no doubt some herd thining will occur. Such is life.

aeolus
2005-Jul-27, 06:50 PM
Even if these microbes don&#39;t end up hurting us, it would be a shame if for all the time and money we&#39;ve invested in searching for life on Mars, we end up contaminating it and possibly (possibly) making it impossible to tell whether the critters we might find came from Mars or Earth.

TuTone
2005-Jul-27, 08:00 PM
No big deal if we contaminate, the Milky Way system is ours. We can do whatever we want. :D

lswinford
2005-Jul-27, 09:31 PM
Remember, there is a difference with "survive" and "thrive". An experiement done at an Arizona university (I forgot whether it was ASU or AU, back in the early 1970&#39;s I seem to recall) put Arizona cactii in a cold, low-pressure, and high CO2 psuedo-martian environment. They lived, even grew some, but could not reproduce.

Also remember, we had a life-test experiment on an early martian lander, and it did have a response that brought questions of viable life on Mars--until the chemists began hypothesizing how some compounds weird and novel to earth could have generated those results on Mars.