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It's one small step for a bug, a giant red face for Nasa

Posted by: Sigurd - Sun Jul 17, 2005 3:04 pm
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It's one small step for a bug, a giant red face for Nasa 
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Post It's one small step for a bug, a giant red face for Nasa   Posted on: Sun Jul 17, 2005 3:04 pm
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0, ... 32,00.html

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FAR from discovering life on Mars, Nasa may have put it there. The American space agency believes the two rover spacecraft scuttling across the red planet are carrying bacteria from Earth, writes John Harlow.
The bacteria, bacillus safensis, were found in a chamber in California that had been used to test the rovers. Officials believe it is likely some of the microbes, possibly from scientists’ skin, were on board when the mission left.

The craft, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on Mars last year. One key task was to look for signs of life — now it seems that if there are any organisms, it is man who has put them there. If proved, the contamination would raise concerns at possible breaches of a United Nations treaty to stop other planets being polluted from Earth.


I think even without sending probes to mars, some bacteria may escape anyway and end up on Mars...
In the billions of years earth existed, we had many collisions with other objects, I'm sure some stones etc reached mars, same as some stones from mars are found on earth.
So personally I think, there is more chance there is a lot of bacteria on mars than there is none.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 17, 2005 9:21 pm
Of course it's easier for rocks to go from Mars to Earth than the other way around, but certainly possible, especially with a big dinosaur-wiper-outer of an asteroid. But I agree, they make way too big a deal out of this.

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Quote:
The error is revealed in Out of Eden by Alan Burdick, a book to be published in Britain this year.

A Nasa spokesman said there were “massive odds” against the microbes becoming established on the planet.


The title of the book, "Out of Eden" sounds to me like this is going to be an argument for the 6 day creation, as described in Judeo-Christian tradition. Life having developed on Mars independent of Earth would obviously contradict creationism, so I imagine that's why he would be bringing that up.

For NASA's part, I seem to remember hearing that it's impossible to actually completely sterilize anything from Earth. Also, like the NASA spokesman said in that article, the bacteria may live, but they probably aren't eating and breeding much, if at all. Here and here are two articles about an experiment relevant to this topic done by the Apollo 12 astronauts.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Jul 18, 2005 9:23 am
As if all those crashlanded vehicles do not pollute Mars.... and they worry about bacteria?


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Post    Posted on: Mon Jul 18, 2005 11:19 am
If future explorers of Mars do find life there it should be pretty easy to determine whether or not it is a recent "pollutant" or something that predates any probes sent by man.

E.g. Looking at the DNA sequence of an earth bacteria is pretty ho-hum these days.

If genuine Mars life also employs the same DNA-based strategy as Earth life (and that may or may not be a big "if") then the differences between theirs and ours (meaning our bugs) should be readily discerned ... and if they DONT use DNA then it's even easier to tell the two apart.

But, if they also have DNA then ... mutations over time will tell us the difference ... e.g. separate two pools taken from the same species and allow time to take its course, and leave everything else equal, even in this idealized model eventually there will be significant differences in the DNA to easily distinguish members of the two different groups.

In summary, from the point of view that one is interested in identifying whether or not actual Mars-life existed then pollutants from earth should not be a big deal. If one is concerned that Earth bugs may take over and obliterate the locals then one should be apprised that Earth bugs made themselves for Earth and are extremely (a significant understatement) unlikely to present any competitive threat to Mars bugs that are already in situ.

Actually, if we DO find DNA-based life forms on Mars which did not arrive on a human-made probe we may surmise that, being DNA-based, they share a common origin (with earth life) and by examining the DNA we should be able to identify (approximately) when the split occurred (and possibly answer the question of which came first? Earth or Mars life?).

However ... if it floats like a dead planet, and looks like a dead planet ... it's probably a dead planet. So it's highly likely the discussion is moot.

DKH

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Post    Posted on: Mon Jul 18, 2005 12:37 pm
Heh. Actually, Marshall, it's basically impossible to completely perfectly sterilize anything, period, spaceship or not.

But I agree with Stefan: why all the fuss about a few bacteria? Let's face it: they ain't gonna make it, and even if they do, then they've just jump-started terraforming for us.

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Post    Posted on: Mon Jul 18, 2005 2:21 pm
Spacecowboy said:
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Let's face it: they ain't gonna make it, and even if they do, then they've just jump-started terraforming for us.


So it's actually a win-win situation! :D 8)


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Post    Posted on: Mon Jul 18, 2005 2:48 pm
Eggs-actly.

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