Mars Photograph:( AFP )
The scientist wondered how humans may have carried microbes into space, which may have survived the trip to make their new home on the Red Planet
Mars is the future of humanity, or so the route of space explorations currently being undertaken by agencies around the world would have you believe. As private players like SpaceX join the big leagues of space exploration, competition could trigger quick developments in the industry.
A scientist from Cornell University recently wrote for BBC on how humans may have accidentally taken life to Mars. The scientist wondered how humans may have carried microbes into space, which may have survived the trip to make their new home on the Red Planet.
According to Christopher Mason, any life consequentially discovered on Mars may have originated in NASA labs. Even then, the author noted how NASA follows on-site cleaning procedures and assembles spacecraft in specialised rooms.
NASA’s spacecraft including the Perseverance Rover are built in sterilised rooms and each component is cleaned before assembly. Mason says that this should theoretically ensure that no bacteria or organisms are able to survive the assembly process.
The filtration process, in addition provides an extra layer of protection so that only a “few hundred particles” may be able to contaminate each square foot. But, even that may not enough. Microbes, as Mason puts, have a tendency to survive in the least expected places. They are found inside our bodies and may sneak through the most sophisticated of cleaning processes in the world.
In the BBC piece, Mason referred to his theoretical research to show that microbes may become a problem during space missions, as they contain genes that may be able to resist radiation and cold environments. In fact, Mason offers an argument for natural selection, saying that the microbes that are able to survive the strictest cleaning processes may have a greater chance to survive the journey to Mars.
“Forward contamination” may be inadvertent, Mason notes. This happens when travellers intentionally or unintentionally take something from one planet to another. He adds that a scientific point of view, this is undesirable and new organisms may wreak havoc if introduced in alien ecosystems.
Even then, not all of lost! If current signs of life did in fact originate on Earth and not Mars, scientists will be able to ascertain the same.