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Will Earth Bacteria Infect Mars?
December 29, 2010 19:29

Mars, Phobos and Phobos-Grunt vehicle

An experiment on delivering bacteria from the Earth to Mars and back aboard Russian “Phobos-Grunt” interplanetary station may cause irreversible changes in Marian ecosystem, an Italian researcher worries. However, Russian scientists assure Barry DiGregorio, a member of ICAMSR (International Committee Against Mars Sample Return), that bacteria from Earth would never get to Mars or Phobos.

The “Phobos-Grunt” project involves sending a probe to Mars’s satellite, Phobos, landing of the probe, collecting soil and rock samples and delivering them to terrestrial laboratories. The probe will also carry a container with terrestrial organisms (60 bacterial species and tiny crustaceans) and plants. After “travelers” return to our planet, scientists can study how three years of space flight have affected those organisms. Researchers expect to receive new facts, revealing fors and againsts of panspermy hypothesis – possibility of life traveling across the space.



Barry DiGregorio declaims against such experiments, saying that is how human unique talent to pollute environment expands beyond our planet. An article, published recently in New Scientist magazine, the leader of ICAMSR reminds that all space powers have signed a Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies in 1967. This Treaty forms the basis of international space law by enjoining exploration of outer space, the Moon and other celestial bodies in a way that helps avoid harmful contamination. First interplanetary vehicles had been carefully sterilized by ethylene oxide, however, today this procedure is often neglected.

Estimated amount of microbial spore, which have been brought to Martian surroundings by various space vehicles, is 1 trillion, threaten ICAMSR activists. From this point of view, Russian “Phobos-Grunt” mission is twice as dangerous, because travelers are not spores, but living organisms. Barry DiGregorio believes this is a violation of the abovementioned Treaty.

The technique is based upon a traditional technology of electrochemical machining of What do Russian scientists have to say? Researchers, which take part in the project, are absolutely sure that Barry DiGregorio’s apprehensions are groundless – no passenger can escape the interplanetary station during its journey. As for space vehicle sterilization – there exists a conventional international protection protocol of other planets from Earth’s dwellers and vice versa. “Phobos-Grunt” vehicle corresponds with all mentioned procedures and protocols. The vehicle will pass by the Red planet, heading for its satellite Phobos, where container with terrestrial organisms will not be left. In theory, microbes from Phobos, if they exist, can reach our planet, but Russian scientists have taken all necessary precautions to avoid this sad scenario.

Recovery capsule usually get seriously burnt in Earth’s atmosphere during landing, so there’s no need to worry about fare dodgers, which could have stuck to its surface. As for rock and soil samples from Phobos, the studies will be organized in such a way to prevent any contacts with outside world. No need to worry, Mr. DiGregorio.



Source: RIA Novosti

Kizilova Anna

Tags: Russian Scientists Space    

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