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Mars Exploration Must Consider Contamination

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the or-they'd-feel-dumb dept.

Space 333

letxa2000 writes: "CNN is reporting that the National Research Council has submitted a report to NASA that recommends certain precautions be taken if NASA is to send astronauts to Mars to guarantee that they don't bring back Mars-based bacteria and contaminate earth; including possibly banning the return vehicle from entering the Earth's atmosphere. What is the likelihood of bacterial life on Mars infecting the earth if we ever get around to visiting Mars in person?"

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333 comments

FP? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448467)

FP! HA!

Re:FP? (-1)

on by (572414) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448552)

There once was a man from Tashkent
Whos penis was horribly bent
He tried and he tried
to straighten his pride
Viewing a man with an ass like a tent [goatse.cx]

Infecting Earth? (0, Offtopic)

wompychomp (560987) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448470)

What about people already on the Earth and causing contamination? Maybe we have already given up on that.

It doesn't hurt to take precautions (5, Funny)

Mr. Shiny And New (525071) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448471)

A transplanted organism with no 'predators' would be a bad thing. Just look at what happened to Australia after Bart brought his frog there.

Re:It doesn't hurt to take precautions (3, Insightful)

haystor (102186) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448479)

Putting a scare of contamination into people is just a way of hyping the possibility of life on mars and the necessity of going there.

Re:It doesn't hurt to take precautions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448568)

Who fucking cares about a few Martian bacteria? Planet X [crawford2000.co.uk] is coming next year anyway.

Re:It doesn't hurt to take precautions (1)

PlaysWithMatches (531546) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448701)

Just look at what happened to Earth because of humans.

Sci-Fi... or is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448472)

In the end, the Martians that killed off humanity were bacteria...

Re:Sci-Fi... or is it? (1)

Kirsha (201264) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448602)

No no you got it wrong. It was the bacteria who killed the Martians! =)

Andromeda Strain... (1)

vitalidea (571366) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448659)

Uh... isn't this the Andromeda Strain [barnesandnoble.com] argument, earily coming back. If you haven't seen it, a Martian virus comes back to earth on a fallen probe and then starts to spread and kill everything it's path. An old sci-fi flick, but an awesome one. The key is that the martian virus has a structure unlike any that is seen on earth, and thus is a total mystery. Therefore, nearly impossible to stop.

Overly paranoid, but good (1, Troll)

CmdrTaco (editor) (564483) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448478)

While I think many of these precautions they would like to take are somewhat overly paranoid, I can't say that I disagree with them. With the possible implications running from no effect whatsever to a simple annoyance to a plague that wipes out all life on earth, I'd have to say that I too would prefer to lean on the side of caution.

But, if we take this much care in interplanetary travel, why not spend at least this much effort on intercontinental travel. Influenza accounts for thousands or more deaths across the globe each year, and by isolating the vectors it uses to spread across continents the various strains can be isolated and cause the flu shots to be much more effective.

I guess this is another upside to NASA- the public benefits from newly discovered technology some years down the line.

Re:Overly paranoid, but good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448508)

But what if it only infects cats and dogs? That would be OK, wouldn't it?
Besides, I've always wanted a pet monkey.

Re:Overly paranoid, but good (1)

dirvish (574948) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448540)

We might also want to take the time to deal with the mutant bacteria here on earth that is becoming increasingly resistent to our antibiotics.

Re:Overly paranoid, but good (3, Insightful)

neksys (87486) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448697)

The fact of the matter is that preventing contamination is impossible - we have pieces of Mars rock entering our atmosphere all the time. Most bacteria is incredibly hardy - the vacuum of space and heat of re-entry are certainly survivable. Please see this essay [uga.edu] , entitled "Estimated Flux of Rocks Bearing Viable Lifeforms Exchanged Between Earth and Mars". Realistically, our primary concern is with accidentally seeding Mars with Terran bacteria - if that happens, we may never know whether or not Mars had any native life.

This has to be low risk, doesn't it? (1, Funny)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448480)

Martian germs scare
the scientists at NASA
give spacemen Lysol

MOD PARENT DOWN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448585)

You moderators all suck.

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448609)

-1, UPPITY

Infecting Mars (5, Interesting)

txtger (216161) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448481)

Another interesting possibility is that we may infect Mars. What if the astronauts get there, and some random bacteria is on their spacesuit? Or some other piece of equiptment for that matter? It 'd be like smallpox in the New World all over again. We could actually see life on Mars destroyed by our visit, before we ever actually get to see much of it.

re: Infecting Mars (2, Insightful)

Catskul (323619) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448520)

If life exists on Mars, it has to be about as simple a a bacteria. Under this assumption, there really isnt much risk that it would be wiped out by an Earth contaminant. Simple life forms adapt extremely quickly. Look how quickly bacterial adapt to antibiotics.

Re:Infecting Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448535)

Well yes, but if you compare a possible bacteria ecosystem on Mars with our multi-cellular lifeforms (think elephants) and civilization (think downtown Manhattan), then I say Earth's health is about 10^20 times more important than Mars's.

Re:Infecting Mars (1)

dirvish (574948) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448560)

If we are going to infect mars we probably allready did it with that little rover deal we drove around remotely a year or two ago.

Re:Infecting Mars (1)

cameldrv (53081) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448583)

That was carefully sterilized.

Re:Infecting Mars (2)

shogun (657) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448652)

So was she [click2houston.com] .

Economic Viability of Mars Colonization (2, Informative)

EricBoyd (532608) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448485)

Man, coincidince! I just finished reading this excellent essay on The Economic Viability of Mars Colonization [aleph.se] , which convinced me that Mars missions are not actually wastes of money. They say these things come in threes, I wonder what the next one will be?

Websurfing done right! StumbleUpon [stumbleupon.com]

Huge money saver (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448486)

Now why havent NASA and the goverment picked up on this. Why fund studies and have spend billions on research, when they could create an account on Slashdot and pose the question there. Then file and submit the discussion that follow their thread.

The bad thing about this post is that given the current goverment in the US they migth take it serious and do it.

man! you people (1)

nandoz (574734) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448487)

It seems these days that everyone want's to have their cske and eat it too. We either want to send a manned misasion to mars or we don't. There are risks involved in any kind of endevor into the unknown. I don't really care about weather they bring something back with them, it couldn't possibly be worse than anything we already have here on earth.

Re:man! you people (2)

Peyna (14792) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448516)

A completely foreign bacteria that no one here has probably ever had any exposure and therefore, if it causes disease, we would not have antibodies to fight it. Yeahhhh makes a whole lot of sense. Sure worth the risk involved.

And the other way around? (4, Insightful)

ixt (463433) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448491)

Shouldn't we be more worried about the other way around first - the contamination of Mars by some Earthly micro-organism?

Re:And the other way around? (1)

Jon_Sy (225913) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448511)

Oh, for sure. Now we can't have that cocktail party, what with all the martian life sick and all.

...

Re:And the other way around? (2)

freeweed (309734) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448676)

Shouldn't we be more worried about the other way around first - the contamination of Mars by some Earthly micro-organism?

Depends on what you consider more worth saving - what's at best some form of alien microbial life, or 6 (7?) billion of your fellow human beings.

Contamination of Mars (0, Redundant)

BlueFashoo (463325) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448495)

What about contamination of Mars? Although that's probably allready hapened. And it is not really of any great concern.

ps. 3rd post!

Re:Contamination of Mars (2)

doooras (543177) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448515)

heh... the only contamination there was from the nuclear war they obviously had that killed off all life on that poor planet.

Lessons (5, Funny)

SkulkCU (137480) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448497)


I think great care should be taken.

If I learned anything from the feature film Mission to Mars, it's that I should not have gone to see that movie. That, plus we have to be careful when we go to Mars. Yeah.

My apologies to real films.

weiii (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448499)

there was some dumb outer limits show about that.. guy went to mars came back and started to self replicate. was pretty cool. think of the things that could come out of that.. more identical stupid people just like the brilliant president.

Other way around?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448502)

What about the Austronauts contaminating the Mars surface with Earth Bacteria. This sounds much more likely to me!

OT:Re:Other way around?? (1)

Karl_Hungus (180893) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448601)

What about the Austronauts contaminating the Mars surface with Earth Bacteria. This sounds much more likely to me!

Austronauts? In that case, I'd be much more concerned about invasions like this [yahoo.com] .

I don't see how there could be anything to worry.. (2, Funny)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448503)

There once was a germ from the red planet
that had scientists from NASA cursing "Dammit!"
"If we send astronauts there,"
"We'd better take care,"
"And from orbit, this bug, we should ban it."

Re:I don't see how there could be anything to worr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448525)

The battle rages on: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=31987&cid=3448 510 [slashdot.org]

:-P

What about. . . (2)

jchawk (127686) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448504)

From the article -

"While the threat to Earth's ecosystem from the release of Martian biological agents is very low, the risk of harmful effects is not zero and cannot be ignored,"

Wouldn't the atomosphere burn off anything that would be on the outside of the ship? And isn't the ship air-tight?

So couldn't we just put the shuttle and crew into some kind of clean space hanger building and just quarantine/clean them?

With minimum risk I think this would be an acceptable alternative, as opposed to impeeding the progress of a mars mission.

Re:What about. . . (1)

IHateUniqueNicks (577298) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448542)

I think the answer to that has been a resounding no. IIRC, we've had meteors fall that contained earth organisms still alive on them even after re-entry. There have also been many simulated re-entries that also show bacteria can withstand huge impacts and heat well enough to contaminate the earth in the event of a meteor strike.

Re:What about. . . (2, Insightful)

Karl_Hungus (180893) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448580)

I think the answer to that has been a resounding no. IIRC, we've had meteors fall that contained earth organisms still alive on them even after re-entry. There have also been many simulated re-entries that also show bacteria can withstand huge impacts and heat well enough to contaminate the earth in the event of a meteor strike.

Actually, I'm willing to bet Earth & Mars have already cross-contaminated each other, though at what point in time, I have no idea. Both planets have been hit hard enough to throw up ejecta which could have escaped the atmosphere and made it to the sister planet. Things change, of course, so the notion that we swapped bacteria with Mars a couple billion years ago is no reason not to wipe our feet before coming inside.

Re:What about. . . (1)

mobydobius (237311) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448582)

Right, but what about the microbes living in the spaceship that the astronauts carried in? The ones on their muddy little space shoes, on their pet rocks they brought in, etc. If astronauts go there, they will be there for a while; plenty of time to get some stuff in the creases of that ship. With any luck, if there is a harmful bacteria, it will kill them before they return.

How can we avoid it? (4, Interesting)

ProfMoriarty (518631) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448505)

The only potential way of doing this, would be to do a transfer of personel in space.

Of course the spacesuits would have to be decontaminated.

I know ... why not have the astronauts strip in space, then float over to the awaiting spacecraft ...

Seriously though ... can we prevent it? My bet would be that we can't be 100% guarenteed that we'd get all the bacteria/critters.

Dumb question (1)

Karl_Hungus (180893) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448506)


This may sound like a dumb one, but couldn't they plot a return trajectory that gets close enough to the Sun to irradiate or burn stuff off before re-entering Earth orbit? Maybe they would have to slingshot Venus or even Mercury, but I want to think solar radiation is the best guarantee that anything brought back from Mars is sterilized before coming home.


If anyone knows specifics about how close you'd have to get and how long you'd have to stay there and what (if any) effect that'd have on craft and crew, please reply. It seems simple, which is why I think there must be more to it than that.

Re:Dumb question (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448587)

If anyone knows specifics about how close you'd have to get and how long you'd have to stay there
Well that's pretty stupid. The Sun's radiation is a mix of many things. Why not pick and choose the kind of radiation you want by generating it artificially? And it would obviously cost MUCH less than the extra fuel and food for your little detour.

and what (if any) effect that'd have on craft and crew, please reply.
Crew? Did you say "crew"? OMG, the crew will die before the bacteria!

Re:Dumb question (0)

MoThugz (560556) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448591)


This may sound like a dumb one, but couldn't they plot a return trajectory that gets close enough to the Sun to irradiate or burn stuff off before re-entering Earth orbit? Maybe they would have to slingshot Venus or even Mercury, but I want to think solar radiation is the best guarantee that anything brought back from Mars is sterilized before coming home.


Of course they could, but wouldn't that be more harmful to the astronauts than to some bacteria that is (as yet) not proven to be existing.

Furthermore, even if such bacteria existed, it would cling on to the space suits of the astronauts, not the spacecraft itself. Assuming that there is enough radiation/heat protection from the ship's hull, it still wouldn't do any good.

Just my opinions BTW... feel free to object if I had erred in any way.

Re:Dumb question (1)

garbs (121069) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448617)

You would probably need some pretty heavy / thick enough shielding to protect the crew from the heat and radiation of the sun, if you were to do a slingshot of Venus or Mercury.

I would think doing a transfer of space vehicle in earth orbit or whatever would be alot cheaper.

Though of course, with a slingshot of Venus or Mercury, well, you would have an oppurtunity to do some further exploration / scientific stuff.

Re:Dumb question..Dumb Solution (4, Informative)

Tazzy531 (456079) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448626)

Sorry..but that is a rather dumb solution.

Remember that the distance between planets and the sun is exceptionally large. It's not like you say you go to the local pizza store on your way home from school. Whenever they try to get something close to Mars, there is a rather small window in which the planets are aligned correctly (mind you, not in a straight line, but in an orbital curve) That is the shortest distance between earth and mars. Now, what you are saying is to burn fuel so that it gets close to the sun, then turn around and burn more fuel to get away from the gravitational pull of the sun back to earth. Meanwhile doing this so that the orbit from mars, around the sun, back to earth is lined up. (Remember that nike's commercial? Over the garage, through the window, nothing but net!)

In addition, you mention a crew. The farthest that manned space missions have gone is to the moon and back. We barely have the resources nor the technology to get to Mars, nonetheless the sun. Anything that can kill bacteria will kill humans first. So exposing the entire ship to the gamma radiations of the sun is near suicide. Secondly, you would need a huge amount of life support system to keep the humans alive for the duration of the entire trip (earth to mars, mars to sun, sun to earth)

Now the thing here is this. You have the right idea. All in all, solar radiation can sterilize just about any bacteria that we know of. Just having a probe fly through the emptiness of space will sterilize the exterior. The part that they are concerned with is the cargo (ie, Martian rocks and stuff).

It is a crock anyway (1, Offtopic)

First_In_Hell (549585) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448509)

It amazes me that so many allegedly "educated" people have fallen so quickly and so hard for a fraudulent fabrication of such laughable proportions. The very idea that a gigantic ball of rock happens to orbit our planet, showing itself in neat, four-week cycles -- with the same side facing us all the time -- is ludicrous. Furthermore, it is an insult to common sense and a damnable affront to intellectual honesty and integrity. That people actually believe it is evidence that the liberals have wrested the last vestiges of control of our public school system from decent, God-fearing Americans (as if any further evidence was needed! Daddy's Roommate? God Almighty!)

Documentaries such as Enemy of the State have accurately portrayed the elaborate, byzantine network of surveillance satellites that the liberals have sent into space to spy on law-abiding Americans. Equipped with technology developed by Handgun Control, Inc., these satellites have the ability to detect firearms from hundreds of kilometers up. That's right, neighbors .. the next time you're out in the backyard exercising your Second Amendment rights, the liberals will see it! These satellites are sensitive enough to tell the difference between a Colt .45 and a .38 Special! And when they detect you with a firearm, their computers cross-reference the address to figure out your name, and then an enormous database housed at Berkeley is updated with information about you.

Of course, this all works fine during the day, but what about at night? Even the liberals can't control the rotation of the Earth to prevent nightfall from setting in (only Joshua was able to ask for that particular favor!) That's where the "mars" comes in. Powered by nuclear reactors, the "mars" is nothing more than an enormous balloon, emitting trillions of candlepower of gun-revealing light. Piloted by key members of the liberal community, the "mars" is strategically moved across the country, pointing out those who dare to make use of their God-given rights at night!

Yes, I know this probably sounds paranoid and preposterous, but consider this. Despite what the revisionist historians tell you, there is no mention of the "mars" anywhere in literature or historical documents -- anywhere -- before 1950. That is when it was initially launched. When President Josef Kennedy, at the State of the Union address, proclaimed "We choose to go to the mars", he may as well have said "We choose to go to the weather balloon." The subsequent faking of a "mars" landing on national TV was the first step in a long history of the erosion of our constitutional rights by leftists in this country. No longer can we hide from our government when the sun goes down.

Credit where credit is due? (2)

Uberminky (122220) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448678)

Shouldn't you at least mention that you are not the author of that passage, and that you merely changed occurrences of "moon" to read "mars"? Seems every time this comment is re-posted, it's never given credit, and it's always a +5 Funny. Oi.

Limerick (2, Funny)

MrHat (102062) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448510)

Mars could be full of bacteria
Like the cold, meningitis, diptheria
So we'll permit them to land
But only in sand
In some remote place like Liberia

lol... +1 Funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448592)

lol... I'd mod if i could.

crap!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448512)

I so thought that I had the first post, but then I got this for two minutes straight!!!

404 File Not Found
The requested URL (science/02/05/02/0011222.shtml?tid=160) was not found.

If you feel like it, mail the url, and where ya came from to pater@slashdot.org.

Was slashdot slashdotted, or could this be our new anti-first post feature? ;) Stupid slash bugs :) Kudos the the fp punk who didn't get the 404.

Re:crap!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448539)

The fp punk who didn't get 404'd thanks you for the kudos.

Bah (1)

68030 (215387) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448514)

They'll just disappear before they ever have to
worry about bringing anything back to contaminate
us or them. And even if they DO manage to have
a successful mission NASA's track history
with things deal with Mars just screams ecological
disaster on some level or another.

Yay, we're doomed.

Introducing an organism could be bad. (1, Troll)

MattXonn (539557) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448523)

You can see how bad introducing an organism can be. Just look at HIV. It is believed to have originated in western Africa, where it did not affect many people. People didn't move far back then. Europeans then starting colonising the area, and supposedly brought it back to Europe. Now it is a world-wide disease. We have no idea what the effects of bringing something from Mars would be.

Presumptions? (1)

jag164 (309858) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448524)

Who is to say martian bacteria is bad? For all we know it may 'cure' cancers or attack and kill the HIV.

Better yet, it may rid the world of stupid people. I say bring it back by the truck load.

Re:Presumptions? (1)

Catskul (323619) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448550)

The chances of that are like the chances that (uncontroled) ionizing radiation is going to cure cancer or cause you to grow wings.

Re:Presumptions? (2)

shogun (657) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448677)

The chances of that are like the chances that (uncontroled) ionizing radiation is going to cure cancer or cause you to grow wings.

I dont know about the curing cancer but it will definantly increase your chances of growing wings, or maybe an extra eye or two at the very least..

Re:Presumptions? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448596)

Rid the world of stupid people? Well, separate militant fags from normal gays, militant feminists from regular women, and take tree hugging fag liberals who have group hugs and fire in the belly (most of Berkeley) and separate them from more 'normal' liberals, and separate niggers from black people and ninety percent of all the Islamic peoples, and the communists in China, North Korea and place them all in a hospitals and then harvest organs and other human spare parts from them.

Be sure not to get any scientists, researchers or wealthy people in this mix. If the average IQ goes above 95, you did something wrong - and may have to re-sort. Also, subtract 10-15 points from the IQ of Islamic peoples, they may have recently consumed the brains of a more intelligent animal in the vicinity.

FUCK all these communists!

*Martian* bacteria? Pffft. (1)

xenoweeno (246136) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448526)

How long until American consumer trappings [space.com] infect Mars?

In the words of Dr. Handy (1)

Monkeyman334 (205694) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448531)

I thought I would post some deep thoughts by Jack Handy, which is probably more reliable than anything you'd find from a Slashdot poster. I mean, who do you want to ask first, the fp guy or the goatse guy? There's people out there who spend their whole lives trying to determine if there's life on mars, and how it should be handled. So I'm willing to trust whatever they say. I just hope they're not on the other end doing their job 8 hours a day by going "Hmmm, I wonder if bacteria would be dangerous, lets ask Slashdot! I trust what SexyMan69 has to say."

Anyway, back to my point, Jack Handy rocks.

Whether they find a life there or not, I think Mars should be called an enemy planet.

(Yeah, it's Jupiter. So sue me.)

bah!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448532)

bah! isnt the bacteria inside the rocks but not actually living? sounds to me like somebody doesnt like mars and dont want us to visit it. or maybe this is some kinda goverment conspiracy to not even let nasa go to mars.
bah theres my 2 cents, sure there worthless but their mine!

Eric

Sound familiar? (3, Informative)

jokrswild (247507) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448537)

Sounds alot like the scare about bringing back "moon bacteria" back when we first landed there. Now it seems funny to us, to think that bacteria would have been on the moon. But, you never know, i guess.

My guess (2)

Y-Crate (540566) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448546)

We would find some way to send them back where they came from. Launch an unmanned Mars return vehicle (if they were already in Earth orbit - sending Progress-like automated supply vessles up with food and the like in the interim) and then send a trickle of supplies back to Mars on a regular basis to keep them alive, and perhaps reach a level of self-sustainability. (which a Mars base SHOULD and almost certainly would have in the first place)

What might end up being rather interesting is if the contamination poses absolutely no risk to humans but is still too suspect to introduce into Earth's environment, then perhaps the stranded astronauts would live quite a long time, with the constant risk of possible additions to their ranks. Some astronauts might forgo the Depo Provera or Norpland and simply decide to risk it or may not take any birth control medications and find themselves caught up in the heat of the moment. And there is always the chance of birth control failing. (even though Depo Provera has a lower failure rate than ANYTHING - even surgical sterilization of either partner)

So, in a while, you might get a growing colony on Mars of humans that are developed differently (due to the gravity), with radically different life experiences and are also unable to interact directly with humans from Earth.

Quite an interesting concept.

Re:My guess (2)

BCoates (512464) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448606)

So, in a while, you might get a growing colony on Mars of humans that are developed differently (due to the gravity), with radically different life experiences and are also unable to interact directly with humans from Earth.

And really, really inbred.

--
Benjamin Coates

I am opposed to this opposition, DAMN Opposed! (1)

liquidweb (154468) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448547)

If my years of research in movie watchings has taught my anything, it's that missions to mars result in the return of ridiculously hot naked chics.(1,2) Having a fondess for said items, I am in support of the return of bacteria from martian soil to out small blue planet.

1. Species
2. Species II

If the scientific community wishes to debate the science fact of these fine pieces of cinema, then I hope they're prepared to tear down other projects of pure research such as "Mission to Mars" and "Leprechaun: In Space".

Re:I am opposed to this opposition, DAMN Opposed! (1)

Fiver-rah (564801) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448631)

And yet it seems that there is a nearer and more certain source of ridiculously hot chicks residing on the third planet from the sun. Occasionally, they even remove their clothing. :)

However hot these naked Martian chicks may be, they have several obvious flaws which prevent them from being ultra-cool. Chicks on Mars have many natural handicaps which chicks on earth don't. To wit:

  1. Chicks living on Mars can never get first post on slashdot. By the time the news item gets updated, minutes have gone by.
  2. Likewise, think of the ping times.
  3. Even supposing you do get them back here, they weighed 1/3 on Mars of what they do here. Can you spell "Honey, do you think I'm fat?" All the time. Don't underestimate the gravity of the situation.

Re:I am opposed to this opposition, DAMN Opposed! (1)

vitalidea (571366) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448688)

Wait-a-minute.... nobody brought anything back in Species/Species II!!! The martian dna spliced on earth from a transmission from outerspace.

not that I have anything against bringing natasha hendstridge back to my place. =)

After some number crunching... (1)

mobydobius (237311) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448554)

What is the likelihood of bacterial life on Mars infecting the earth if we ever get around to visiting Mars in person?

After carefully weighing all the factors (likelihood of microbial life on Mars, likelihood of said life having a detrimental effect on earth life, likelihood of bacterial vector surviving the trip back to earth, etc.), I have concluded that the answer to this question is...

2.06%

We can end this conversation now; I am never wrong :-)

Re:After some number crunching... (1)

herting (542478) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448714)

you forgot to carry the seven, its actually 23.2%

better luck next time

Galactic Bacterial Domination (2, Interesting)

No_Weak_Heart (444982) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448564)

Hmm... meteorites from Mars bring bacterial life to Earth -> astronauts form Earth bring bacterial life to Mars -> astronauts return to Earth with fresh bacteria from Mars... ad nauseam. These little guys have been around a lot longer than us and have more than proved their mettle. Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects about life on the small scale(bacteria, virus etc...) is this incredible ability to move between vastly differing environments and be successful in those new environments. Something humans and other higher order animals don't do so well.



Refusing the spacecraft to reenter Earth's atmosphere might work for quarantining hardware, but where do we put the astronauts who return with low level infections? Will we even be able to detect such an infection?


Isn't it the opposite? (2)

Tazzy531 (456079) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448573)

Didn't they say a few years ago that probes sent up by NASA and the Russian space agency contained bacteria and other organic matters that could have potentially contaminated Mars? I think I read somewhere (can't confirm right now) that they found fossilzed earth bacteria in an Martian meteorite.

Re:Isn't it the opposite? (2)

freeweed (309734) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448698)

Didn't they say a few years ago that probes sent up by NASA and the Russian space agency contained bacteria and other organic matters that could have potentially contaminated Mars? I think I read somewhere (can't confirm right now) that they found fossilzed earth bacteria in an Martian meteorite.

I think you're mixing up 2 stories here. Anything NASA or the USSR has sent to Mars wouldn't be anywhere close to fossilized by now - give it another few hundred thousand years (rough guess, my geology is years out of date now :).

The possibility of Earth/Mars cross-contamination has been brought up many times, and has almost certainly happened, but the current thinking is it happens from meteorite strike ejecta - and we certainly haven't had anything hit the Earth any time recently that would be large enough to actually fling pieces of the planet towards Mars.

Re:Isn't it the opposite? (1)

robolemon (575275) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448711)

"It encountered Earth's atmosphere 13,000 years ago and fell in Antarctica as a meteorite." [nasa.gov]

According to NASA, there's no way that meteorite could have any bacteria from humans.

Hmm, that puts it around 11,000 BC. Maybe it was taken back to Mars by The Great Gazoo from The Flintstones. It could have been off Fred's loincloth. I bet it was a strepto-rock-us bacterium.

Why the concern? (3, Insightful)

geophile (16995) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448574)

A toxin might kill an astronaut. That would be tragic, but not a disaster. The problem to be worried about is communicable disease, namely an organism (bacteria, virus) that harms the host and can spread. The organisms that work this way on this planet have evolved with us over a very long period of time. An organism that had never encountered a human before, or perhaps even earthly DNA, seems exceedingly unlikely to be communicable -- hasn't had the practice.

Still, I have to admit, this sounds an awful lot like, "this code should work".

what are the chances? (1)

okmijnuhb (575581) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448590)

As small as the chances of viral lifeforms from Mars existing and infecting earth, it's worth taking the precautions.
Remember H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds"?
Aliens from Mars were kicking our ass, until they mysteriously died off, for they were not immune to our local 'innocuous' bacterium.
Of course you would hope that an agency like NASA would have the ability to check for the presence of bacteria, and that, in fact, that would be one of the purposes of such a mission, but hey, never question beaurocratic motives.

Then... _DON'T_ _SEND_ _PEOPLE_. (2, Insightful)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448594)


The most ironic thing is that if a person is sent to Mars, they will almost innevitably be called a 'Hero'.

Why? Because they were able to see more than any electrical equipment? No - machines would be able to see with much greater clarity without disturbing the environment they are examining. Because they can perform actions that no machine can? No - a machine that was allowed the weight of a human being, and the environmental protection of a human being, then given the budget of a human being would be able to do thousands of times the unique experiments a human would have time to do on the first trip - and it wouldn't need to come back either.

Now admittedly, this is more of a rant - but humans do not have any special reason to take the great pains needed to go into space to explore. Machines can, and do explore much better. Once a plan is made to make an environment outside of earth livable, and a sound plan is made, then it would be beneficial to have humans live in that environment. We do NOT need a human on Mars, nor do we need to spend the overwhelming resources needed to put a human on Mars.

I know, I know - it's not science that drives this, and now mostly, the only way to get the budget is to send a senator or other large source of money where they want to go, and fit science in after the ego. But if we have to go this route, couldn't we just go ahead and put McDonalds and AOL ads on permanant banners on Mars instead of having to send a human? Maybe make little human robots, controlled in a sort of a battletech way by senators and rich people on earth instead.

I'd much rather hear the press worry about the viral influence of children looking through their new high-powered telescope looking for the Pringle's ad on Phobos than the paranoia that would come from a human being sent to mars, and all that involves.

Any other "better than sending a human" ideas?

:^)

Ryan Fenton

Re:Then... _DON'T_ _SEND_ _PEOPLE_. (1)

BCoates (512464) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448651)

If the only science we're interested in is the natural conditions of Mars, then yes, there's no good reason to send a human when a probe would work too.

What sending people to Mars is good for is to gain practical experience, in order to send more people, further away, and for longer periods of time.

Someone who travels to Mars would deserve to be called a hero, just like the men who went to the Moon did. These are the people who are doing the genuinely dangerous work of making it possible for human civilization to grow beyond Earth permanently.

--
Benjamin Coates

Even a tiny likelihood is big enough.. (1)

jimmyCarter (56088) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448598)

I don't think we can be safe enough here. How much do we *really* know about Mars? Not enough..

Nonsense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448599)


This is just silly.
Have these people ever taken biology class?

Even if there is living organisms on Mars, how in the world would they be adopted to living on Earth, Our enviroment is just a little bit different from Mars.

But lets say that there are living organisms on Mars, how could they attack us? How in the world
woud it develop pathonicity to humans if it never
seen us before?

There is a better chance that cows will grow wings on Monday and take over the Congress,
so that they can pass anti-milking laws.

Re:Nonsense! (0)

cyril3 (522783) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448679)

maybe they have little tiny spacesuits and little tiny death rays. ya gotta figure a death ray is a death ray and its size doesn't matter.

hmm (2)

ByteHog (247706) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448614)

What is the likelihood of bacterial life on Mars infecting the earth if we ever get around to visiting Mars in person?

I don't know, but I know a sure-fire way to find out!!!

Lets not forget the Indians (2)

antis0c (133550) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448616)

If the memory of my middle school history class serves me right, weren't a lot of Indians killed by a plague brought along with the settlers that landed in the New World? Wasn't this plague similar to the Cold virus, or perhaps flu? Something that most of the english had immune systems over time built up for, but the Indians immune systems had absolutely no way to deal with it, and it became an epidemic.

If there is even a remotely possiblity of any kind of bacteria/virual form of life existing on mars, we must be extremely careful. The bacteria/virus could potentially be so radically different than any strand here on earth, it could potentially wipe out entire species..

Then again, if not it'll make a good movie, I suggest casting Bruce Willis to lead a team of doctors to mars to attempt to find a "counter-virus."

Re:Lets not forget the Indians (2)

josh crawley (537561) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448647)

---"Then again, if not it'll make a good movie, I suggest casting Bruce Willis to lead a team of doctors to mars to attempt to find a "counter-virus."
"---

Will it have Willis hitting golf balls at passing cosmonauts?

Compatibility Issues (3, Interesting)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448621)

I think that taking reasonable precautions is prudent.

But let's be serious. I enjoyed "The Andromeda Strain" as much as the next guy, but I don't think this is very realistic. A chimp can't catch a cold from me. I can only play host to a limited number of bacteria that a lizard is susceptible to. And they want me to believe that there may be some man-killer bacteria on Mars? Even if you're one of these nutters who thinks that big headed grey dudes seeded our solar system with their DNA, why would you think a flesh-eating bacterium would evolve on a planted WITH NO FLESHY BEINGS?

I think we're all just a bit too eager to see Data dork Yar.

-Peter

Possibility, more than 1:3571 ? (1)

jukal (523582) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448622)

What is the possibility that an ELE sized asteroid (facts [arizona.edu] ) hits the earth during your lifetime (75 years). If you could win $42 000 000 000 in a lottery at such rate, would you bet? ;))

Ofcourse they try to do precautions for everything they can think of. Many of you must have some experience on IT risk management, and you know the calculus - if avoidable mass destruction is on other side, then a few million dollars on other side is not bad risk management.

Read Life of the Cell (2)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448625)

This idea is actually laughable. Earth's bacteria and plagues have been evolving for billions of years just to kill Earth organisms. Anything that comes into our ecosystem will quickly be outcompeted and outclassed. It's like putting Bambi in a Terminator movie. There is absolutely nothing to worry about from Mars organisms.

Sinclair Lewis goes into this topic in the biology classic 'Life of the Cell' Or a cell, I can't remember.

Re:Read Life of the Cell (2)

Tazzy531 (456079) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448672)

I disagree. The sole purpose of bacteria is not to "kill" as you suggest, but rather to survive. One bacteria might survive by consuming your flesh. Another might survive by consuming your white blood cells. A bacteria that is harmful to one organism may not be harmful to another. The reverse is also true. Now if a organism is introduced into this ecosystem and (i'll give this one to you) it doesn't kill humans...but rather attacks plant matter..would you agree that would have a detrimental effect on the environment? Let's just say it destroys part of the rain forest. And since we don't have a way of destroying this organism, it keeps going plants matters are consumed. Maybe, like you said, humans have evolved to be able to fight off bacteria..but it is only because we have encountered these bacterias over several thousands of years that we have built an immunity to it. If a new organism is introduced into the system, our bodies may not be able to fight it off.

Now to look at it from a micro level. Research has shown that when you start dating someone new, you will usually get sick (ie cold, flu, etc) in the first couple of weeks/months. This is due to the fact that when you kiss, you transfer bacteria that the other person is immune to into your system which your body is not immune to. This is the same as introducing a new organism into the ecosystem.

Re:Read Life of the Cell (1)

NoBeardPete (459617) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448707)

The fact that bacteria on Earth have evolved to deal with Earth organisms is true. But evolution is a two way street - us large Earth organisms have evolved to deal with Earth bacteria just as much as they've evolved to us.

Any hypothetical Mars bacteria, then, will be at a disadvantage insofar as they won't be adapted specifically to screw over Earth plants and animals. This means it's unlikely that they'll be doing anything really complex, like hijacking our own cellular systems to help them reproduce, or disguising themselves as something they're not. But they can still reproduce, reproduce, reproduce, consume nutrients (especially the super-rich nutrients you tend to find in a large plant or animal), and spit out lots of potentially toxic waste material. This can be plently deadly, especially if your immune system doesn't even notice the bacteria in question because it is totally unlike anything it's designed to deal with.

It probably _is_ unlikely that we'll get screwed over by some errant Martian microbe. But if it does happen, it could be totally catastrophic. So it behooves us to be careful, don't you think?

Re:Read Life of the Cell (2)

freeweed (309734) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448710)

Earth's bacteria and plagues have been evolving for billions of years just to kill Earth organisms.

And the human immune system has been evolving for (at least) millions of years, just to kill foreign (read: non-host) pathogens. Yet we still get sick.

Also, don't forget HIV, which due to a really weird quirk of genetics, has managed to infect and thrive in us by attacking the very immune system we depend on to survive.

our old home (1)

okmijnuhb (575581) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448628)

I bet that they discover that humankind originated on Mars and dug all those canals and stuff. But they had a catastrophic atomic war, but their space program allowed them to settle on the promising planet of earth, where environmental differences caused them to de-evolve into apes, whereupon, it took millions of years to evolve to near their former selves. :)

hmm.. (1)

waspleg (316038) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448633)

but i thought thier probes said there was no life, so why worry about it

Martians read H.G. Wells... (1)

Shuh (13578) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448650)

*spoiler* In War of The Worlds the Martians were stopped dead in their tracks because they became infected with Earth's native bacteria. Now how is that going to stop them... if the Martians are bacteria! ::: Dum dum duummmmm! (scream) :::

Makes me wonder what we left on the moon (3, Interesting)

crimoid (27373) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448654)

This makes me wonder what, if anything, we left on the moon.... growing.... breeding... multiplying in the lunar dust...

I hate to be offtopic (1)

rosewood (99925) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448682)

What happened to that 2600 story about Turner exce calling PVR users theives??

It's not fair (1)

jsse (254124) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448695)

While we don't want to bring contamination back to earth, NASA planned to contaminate the Mars to create an artificial greenhouse effect so that it's warm enough to grow algea to produce oxygen.

Life isn't fair isn't it? :)

now you know why they were the green men on mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448705)

they were all covered in mould!

Infected by our own limitations (1)

Quite Inconsequentia (574504) | more than 12 years ago | (#3448708)

What stand out in this article is how limited we humans are in our thinking. Here we are, exploring the great unknown, and the biggest threat we can come up with is a little green man with a red nose sneezing at us. You can imagine the sequence of events that took place at NASA HQ that lead to this initiative: 1) Some middle manager's secretary comes in with a sore throat. 2) The middle manager, having designs on the secretary, orders some poor geek to relinquish his supply of Ramen noodles, since that's the closest thing in sight to chicken soup. 3) The geek throws a hissy fit. 4) The manager backs down, realizing that if he puts up a big stink someone higher up might notice his job is totally redundant. 5) Totally emasculated, the manager tries to redeem himself by circulating the "Clear and Present Danger of Bio-Agent Vectors in Space" memorandum.

Paranoia wull destroy ya (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3448716)

Dant da-dant da-da-da-da-dant.
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