Life on Earth: how to protect the Earth from foreign germs?

NASA is looking for ways to protect the Earth against possible microbes from Mars by disposing of material collected by the Sample Return of Mars. As it prepares to bring samples from the Red Planet here, the airline held a public meeting last week to receive comments on whether it will unload the container with the samples in the Utah pilot area early next decade.

At present, the plan for the safe collection of samples through the campaign is as follows: the container would land on Mars to collect material, which would be stored in a container. This spacecraft would be sent into space, landing in orbit around the planet. Later, it will be “swallowed up” by another, as a means of protecting anything that has come into contact with the planet. This will be sealed and cleaned at a temperature of more than 400 ° C to destroy any dangerous organism.

Plan to collect samples from Mars and send material to Earth (Photo: Reproduction / ESA)

Then the weighted vessel would move to another, which would also be loaded onto a car that would enter our atmosphere, landing in the Utah desert without parachute. “As with baseball, this landing is in the capacity of the Earth’s entry system,” said Brian Clement, a planetary defense specialist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The idea of ​​a mission to collect samples from Mars and bring them safely to Earth has been a topic that has been going on for decades – and while the Perseverance rover is already collecting material, NASA still has nothing. answers on questions related to possible Martian illustrations. Therefore, it is still unclear exactly how to deal with possible microorganisms or what structures will be important to have.

Risks of samples

Peter Doran, a geologist at Louisiana State University, explains that, so far, this information has not been widely discussed because no one thought that the samples would be collected and returned to the world. “This is probably the most important environmental assessment that human beings have ever made,” he noted. To date, the Perseverance Rover has collected eight samples from Jesus’ Crete.

Sample 7 collected by Perseverance rover (Photo: Production / NASA / JPL-Caltech / ASU)

Barry DiGregorio, a science writer and a member of the International Committee to Combat Sampling Returns, is one of the world’s most vocal anti-retroviral advocates. “You can imagine what would happen if you had pathogenic organisms from another planet and something like that happened” – in his speech, he referred to the Genesis mission, which broke down upon his return.

Clement, on the other hand, points out that several panels of scientific experts have analyzed the risks of retrieving samples over the years, “and all have concluded that the possible risks are very small,” he said. He also pointed out that NASA has been operating with caution, ensuring that anything that has direct contact with Mars will be blocked or cleaned up before it reaches Earth.

For Jim Bell, a planetary scientist on the Resistance team, there is no reason to worry about Martian germs escaping from sample rocks and causing trouble on Earth, since any living thing that can (or may not) evolve to survive. in the ground. “We are talking about a completely different ecological system, a completely different world,” he concluded. “And of course, we don’t even know if there is a biosphere on Mars.”

Source: NPR

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