(Purdue) A red Tesla convertible hitched a ride to space with a SpaceX rocket in early February, bringing with it what may be the largest load of earthly bacteria to ever enter space.
NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection makes sure spacecraft planning to land on other planets are sterile. Much like an invasive species, organisms from Earth could thrive on another planet and wipe out native organisms. After all, it was bacteria that stopped the Martian invasion in H. G. Wells’ fictional “War of the Worlds.”
“If there is an indigenous Mars biota, it’s at risk of being contaminated by terrestrial life,” said Jay Melosh, a professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at Purdue University. “Would Earth’s organisms be better adapted, take over Mars and contaminate it so we don’t know what indigenous Mars was like, or would they be not as well adapted as the Martian organisms? We don’t know.”
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