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Earth Bacteria May Hitch A Ride To The Stars

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the they're-made-from-peeepul dept.

Space 221

An anonymous reader writes "Space.com has an article on how old rocket stages are carrying bacteria from Earth to interstellar space. For example, four upper rocket stages were used to boost deep space probes Voyager 1, Voyager 2, Pioneer 10 and New Horizons. The spacecraft were sterilized, but the rocket stages were not, and they now carry the bacteria of the engineers who handled them. If the rocket stages hit a habitable planet, and the bacteria survive the journey, they would be able to reproduce and colonize the planet ... not that there's a high liklihood of that. 'In 40,000 years, this wayward 185-pound (84 kilogram) lump of metal will pass by the star AC+79 3888 at a distance of 1.64 light-years. ... Given the sheer expanse of time that lies ahead of the four discarded rockets, at least one is likely to eventually encounter a planet. But even if that planet's environment is conducive to life, the long dormant bacteria will not just gently plop into some exotic ocean. No soft landing can be expected.'"

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221 comments

Don't worry... (4, Funny)

tttonyyy (726776) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052479)

...we'll send all the telephone sanitisers after the discarded rocket stages to clear up any unwanted bacteria. Get 'em loaded in the arc!

Re:Don't worry... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19052731)

succcess is highly improbable. in fact, infinitely improbable!

Re:Don't worry... (5, Funny)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052775)

Actually, I'm thinking that there was at least ONE engineer who didn't wash his hands after using the restroom, and how THOSE bacteria will become the overlords on some planet...

Re:Don't worry... (1, Informative)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052881)

urine is sterile. I should hope everyone washes their hands after taking a dump.

Re:Don't worry... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19053001)

urine is sterile. I should hope everyone washes their hands after taking a dump.


Beyond the obvious point that very few people urinate directly on their hands, the delivery device is often not sterile. Hand washing afterward is certainly recommended.

Re:Don't worry... (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053007)

Where did you get the ridiculous idea that urine is sterile?

Even if it were sterile in the bladder (which it isn't...otherwise there would be no such thing as a bladder infection), it wouldn't remain sterile as it passes through your plumbing and out of your body. Ask your doctor what kinds of critters they see in urine samples sometime.

Re:Don't worry... (5, Informative)

ls -la (937805) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053111)

Where did you get the ridiculous idea that urine is sterile?
From medhelp.org [medhelp.org] :

is human urine sterile????

---
Dear Clint,

Yes, urine is considered sterile in the sense that it normally should not contain bacteria. Bacteriuria is the presence of bacteria in the urine, that is not attributed to contamination from the skin, foreskin, or vagina. Although urine produced freshly by the kidneys is sterile (unless the individual has a kidney infection), it can become infected with bacteria or yeast in the presence of a urinary tract infection. Sometimes an individual may have bacteria in the urine in the absence of symptoms of a urinary tract infection (asymptomatic bacteriuria). I hope this answers your question regarding the sterility of urine. Wish you the best.

This information is provided for general medical education purposes only. Please consult your physician for diagnostic and treatment options pertaining to your specific medical condition. More individualized care is available at the Henry Ford Hospital and its satellites (1 800 653 6568).

Sincerely,
HFHS M.D.-JJ

Re:Don't worry... (4, Informative)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053181)

urine is sterile [nih.gov] , unless you have some kind of abnormal infection up there in which case it's not (obviously)
"What are the causes of UTI?

Normally, urine is sterile. It is usually free of bacteria, viruses, and fungi but does contain fluids, salts, and waste products. An infection occurs when tiny organisms, usually bacteria from the digestive tract, cling to the opening of the urethra and begin to multiply. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside the body. Most infections arise from one type of bacteria, Escherichia coli (E. coli), which normally lives in the colon."

Re:Don't worry... (2, Informative)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053583)

Just to add to this: The habit of washing your hands after going to the bathroom has nothing to do with needing to clean off residue from going to the bathroom. The primary reason it was originally encouraged was because people weren't washing up on a daily basis, at all. As a public hygine issue it was decided to encourage people to wash their hands regualary, and bathrooms normally have running water, so that was a good time to do it. (People do use them every day, and the resources for washing were avalible.)

This is not to say you don't need to wash your hands after wiping your ass. But most people would do that anyway: They'll smell that they need to wash that off. The original public hygene campain that created 'wash your hands when you leave the bathroom' was unrelated to that, and was during the Renaissance, when medicine was re-discovered in Europe.

Re:Don't worry... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19053467)

I guess you missed the article about NASA putting living bacteria in one of the Mars Rovers. We've already polluted one of our neighboring planets, why are we concerned about rocket stages drifting in space?
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/articl e544976.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

Justification? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19052485)

Given the sheer expanse of time that lies ahead of the four discarded rockets, at least one is likely to eventually encounter a planet.
I don't see the justification with this statement. Why can't a discarded rocket be locked into a stable orbit around a star instead? Or hit an asteroid? Or go into a star? I think they're being a little too optimistic that one of these fragments is going to land on a planet.

Re:Justification? (4, Interesting)

GodInHell (258915) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052605)

It's part fo the "space is infinite so all things which can exist do exist" line of (incorrect) thinking.

Two thumbs down for cliched half-truths on this article.

-GiH

Re:Justification? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19052997)

Meh, it would still be difficult to travel across the galaxy on an arbitrary vector and not get caught in some gravity well. I don't know about landing on a planetoid (that's still pretty tough), but I think the probabilities are at least in favor of an eventual star encounter.

Re:Justification? (1)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053101)

Indeed

The failing in the logic is not the vastness of space but the smallness of the number of rockets carrying bacteria. If we were to send a suitably large number of rockets up then the probabilities start to fall to reasonable numbers. However the definition of 'a suitably large number of rockets' would almost certainly be many, many orders of magnitude beyond what we could produce, let alone have produced.

Re:Justification? (2, Insightful)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052743)

My thought drifted more towards the fact that space is HUGE. The likely hood of impacting ANYTHING but dust is remote.

Re:Justification? Sun must hit planet then right? (3, Insightful)

markk (35828) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052905)

If chances are that these probes will hit a habitable planet are good then the Sun must surely hit a habitable planet as it moves about the galaxy. In fact every Sun must hae a good chance - they are all moving at roughly the same interstellar speed as the stages, they are much bigger so they have a much bigger change of hitting something ... doesn't seem so likely now? the chances of those stages hitting any planet are ... well astronomical in the best sense. Love that line - space is very big.

Re:Justification? Sun must hit planet then right? (4, Funny)

Bandman (86149) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053127)

I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the drug store, but that's just peanuts to space.

Re:Justification? (1)

Tofystedeth (1076755) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052821)

maybe by encounter they meant, be anywhere within gravitational influence of. That opens it up a little bit more. Space is still pretty damn big though. And ever so much of space is 'empty' space.

Re:Justification? (1)

griffjon (14945) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052899)

...or not be sterilized/killed by the extreme heat of entry into this other planet's atmosphere?

Re:Justification? (4, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053299)

That's the real problem here. It's not just moving at interplanetary speeds; it's moving at interstellar speeds. When it approaches a star, it's going to be accelerated towards it. The kinetic energy of impact will be crazy-high. Plus, 40,000 years of ionizing radiation on a thin-hulled body? Not exactly an environment conducive to life.

On the other hand, it doesn't take human launched stages to get bacteria from Earth to other planets. In fact, odds are, we've already had bacteria from Earth touch down alive on Titan [planetary.org] . The K-T dinosaur-killing impact alone launched about 600 million rocks from Earth into space. As we now know, Earth rocks tend to be infested with microorganisms, and most rocks that are ejected won't kill the bacteria on the inside (spalling has already been demonstrated to be gentle enough). The sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars bear the brunt of the impacts. Mercury and Mars impacts are harsh, due to tenuous atmospheres. Venus impacts are more gentle, but obviously, Venus is a hellish inferno. However, Jupiter can eject fragments further, and that's where things get interesting. About 100 objects strike each Galilean satellite However, with their weak to nonexistent atmospheres, they hit very hard -- 8-40 km/s. You'd be lucky to have even proteins survive. However, Titan has a huge atmosphere, ideal for aerobraking. From this one impact, about 30 Earth meteorites hit Titan within a few million years. They enter the atmosphere at 5-20 km/s, brake, break into fragments, and the fragments hit the surface intact.

Summary:

"That's food for thought -- could Earth have seeded Titan with microbial life? If Gladman's simulations are correct, the material has definitely gotten there in the past. Gladman added, in conclusion, that "if you ever had atmospheres on any of the [presently] airless satellites, they could have acted as aerobrakes" just like Titan's would today."

Re:Justification? (3, Informative)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053377)

Why can't a discarded rocket be locked into a stable orbit around a star instead?

Orbit capture is an extremely improbable event. In a pure two-body situation it can't happen at all: the approaching body will either hit the primary body or zing by it in a hyperbola. Something has to decelerate it during a critical period as it's arriving, and that means there has to be a third body in the right place at the right time. A wandering rocket would have to experience thousands of encounters to have a realistic probability of being captured in one.

rj

Re:Justification? (1)

Manchot (847225) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053461)

Well, it's extremely unlikely that any rocket will enter a stable orbit around a star. Because it was launched outside of the gravitational well of all other stars, if it approaches any of them, it will automatically have more than enough energy to escape. It may be deflected, but it probably won't be captured. Having said that, if it encounters enough resistance while near that star (e.g., due to solar wind), it might be possible, assuming that it is enough to lose all of its initial kinetic energy.

Screaming (3, Funny)

kevinbr (689680) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052491)

In space, no one can hear bacteria scream

Sounds improbable... (1)

Lawn Jocke (1064716) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052535)

The chance of a bacteria surviving out there is 1:2 to the power of 276,709. Then again, the bacteria does have 30 seconds...

Re:Sounds improbable... (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052785)

I was kinda thinking, what are the odds it will survive all the gamma and solar wind it's going to encounter?
-nB

Re:Sounds improbable... (1)

ls -la (937805) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053233)

The chance of a bacteria surviving out there is 1:2 to the power of 276,709. Then again, the bacteria does have 30 seconds...
I think you're confusing bacteria with humans. Bacteria can indeed survive the vacuum of space. If anything, it will be re-entry into some planet's atmosphere that is most likely to kill them.

Google it [google.com]

Re:Sounds improbable... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19053373)

And I think you are confusing his/her Hitchhiker's reference with a serious critique.

Future S.O.S (5, Funny)

Recovering Hater (833107) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052541)

And then some poor alien life forms will contract an illness from the bacteria. This in turn kills off the only other sentient beings besides humans. We will learn of this tragedy from messages recieved from SETI with aliens cursing humans. Oh the irony. Smallpox blankets in space. :P

Forget sanitizers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19052543)

.. why couldn't we have strapped Dells telesales team to the darn thing? 40,000 years of corporate peace sounds like bliss.

Not looking forward to that letter (4, Funny)

brejc8 (223089) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052545)

Dear Mr Johnson, We are contacting you from the planet Xunxu as you owe twenty five million dollars in child support charges for your population of contribution to our planet.

Re:Not looking forward to that letter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19052951)

They use dollars in space now?

Re:Not looking forward to that letter (2, Funny)

aiabx (36440) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053083)

Dispute it. You have 80,000 years before they can serve the papers on you.

But... (1)

thousandinone (918319) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052559)

Being exposed to the near-vacuum of space for an extended period of time, aren't the bacteria likely to be "pulled apart" at the molecular level?

Re:But... (2, Insightful)

BurntNickel (841511) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052745)

Being exposed to the near-vacuum of space for an extended period of time, aren't the bacteria likely to be "pulled apart" at the molecular level?

No, contrary to popular opinion, vacuum does not suck

Re:But... (4, Informative)

MarkByers (770551) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052805)

> Being exposed to the near-vacuum of space for an extended period of time, aren't the bacteria likely to be "pulled apart" at the molecular level?

No.

http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answer s/970603.html [nasa.gov]

Vacuums are basically harmless. There isn't much difference in the forces involved between being in a vacuum and being at twice ordinary Earth pressure. In fact, humans can survive being unprotected in space for short periods of time, with no permanant damage:

You will of course die if you don't get some oxygen fast. Don't even try holding your breath to get an extra few minutes - the pressure will damage them. Just let the air escape and hope for rescue.

Re:But... (2, Informative)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052959)

For an easier reading about human exposure in space, check out Damn Interesting's article [damninteresting.com] . It's the same facts as the NASA link but written with the idea that you don't need everything phrased in the form of a question and answer.

Re:But... (1)

MarkByers (770551) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053359)

OK, that made dying in a vacuum sound a lot worse than the article that I linked to, but I think we can agree that the molecules aren't ripped apart. If a bacterium can survive being frozen and defrosted then maybe it could survive the journey.

Re:But... (2, Funny)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053449)

FYA (From your article)

on Aug. 16, 1960. Joe Kittinger, during his ascent to 102,800 ft (19.5 miles) in an open gondola, lost pressurization of his right hand. He decided to continue the mission, and the hand became painful and useless as you would expect. However, once back to lower altitudes following his record-breaking parachute jump, the hand returned to normal.

Isn't that what they call "a stranger"?

Re:But... (1)

digitaldestiny (983745) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053211)

Not by vacuum perhaps, but that little lump would be exposed to some heavy interstellar radiation.

And in 5 million years, will there be a new (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052579)

civilization? Perhaps, we should consider GAing some bacteria with more of our genome (and other plants/animals) and sending them to the stars.

Re:And in 5 million years, will there be a new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19052735)

civilization? Perhaps, we should consider GAing some bacteria with more of our genome (and other plants/animals) and sending them to the stars.

It might be how we survive. The odds are sooner or later someone, somewhere is going to do something real stupid hear on earth. Perhaps making earth uninhabitable. Maybe this is also how life started on earth.

Interstellar Security Alert: +2, Elevated (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19052583)

TO: Earth

FROM: Mooninites

You are hereby banned from any further space launches from earth and-or planes.

P.S.: Impeach the war criminals [whitehouse.org] .

Pax,
Kilgore Trout, C.E.O.
Mooninites, Inc.

Counterattack! (3, Funny)

tb()ne (625102) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052591)

Hopefully, the bacteria won't be deemed a biological attack by the technologically advanced (yet extremely vengeful) inhabitants of whatever planet the rocket stage hits.

Re:Counterattack! (4, Funny)

ObiWanStevobi (1030352) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052913)

Well, there is always a chance that they may miscalculate the scale of us Earthings and get swallowed by a small dog upon arrival.

Can bacteria survive the re-entry temperature? (5, Insightful)

Ruvim (889012) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052607)

If planet is habitable, it got to have the atmosphere. Here is a pretty good chance that the stage will just burn-up on entry. I doubt that any bacteria will survive the temperature at which the metal burns.

Re:Can bacteria survive the re-entry temperature? (2, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052777)

In 40K years, we will either be in the same realm or we will be extinct. Either way, it does not matter.

Re:Can bacteria survive the re-entry temperature? (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053147)

There's a famous account of bacteria surviving on an unmanned probe on the moon [panspermia.org] . They didn't have to survive reentry, of course, but it demonstrates that bacteria can be surprisingly resilient. On Earth, bacteria can be found thriving in the harshest conditions where the most minuscule traces of liquid water can be found. If the rockets do manage to find a planet with liquid water, I wouldn't bet against the bacteria.

But it's extremely unlikely they'll find one. More likely, they'll go into stable orbit around some object, fall into a star, fall into a gas giant, or float in deep space until the universe dies.

Re:Can bacteria survive the re-entry temperature? (1)

Bodrius (191265) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053295)

Although we know of bacteria adapted to very extreme conditions on the planet, I doubt these are the same bacteria adapted to human hosts on temperate environments. The variations in environment conditions is most likely what would kill them, not the extremity of those at any particular moment.

Re:Can bacteria survive the re-entry temperature? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19053175)

Perhaps it'll hit hard, explode, and like the shuttle pieces that fell over texas, settle to the ground relatively lightly - or at the least seed the atmosphere itself. I'd expect much of a light craft (light in comparison to a solid iron meteorite at least) to burn, but some to disperse in pieces.

asdf (3, Insightful)

UPZ (947916) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052609)

perhaps life came to earth the same way

Digg parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19052889)

Oh yeah... Wrong site. NM. Digg him down then.

Fools! (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052617)

Don't they know that a fiery explosion is what the bacteria need to escape!

I For One... (0, Offtopic)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052623)

I, for one, welcome our future alien bacteria overlords.

Just four.... (4, Insightful)

sholden (12227) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052627)

More likely for them all to end up in a star/black hole than a planet, or a huge gas giant than a nice habitable planet with water oceans.

It's unlikely to just happen to pass through the "disk" around a star where the planets are at near parallel angle, more likely to come from "above" so to speak and hence unlikely to hit much - of course my understanding of astronomy approaches zero.

Not to mention sterilized by close encounters with a radiation source (like say a star)...

Re:Just four.... (0)

ArbitraryConstant (763964) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053465)

"More likely for them all to end up in a star/black hole than a planet, or a huge gas giant than a nice habitable planet with water oceans."

I'd think even more likely than that would be drifting out into intergalactic space and floating around until the eventual heat death of the universe.

Re:Just four.... (1)

Excelcia (906188) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053511)

A large gas giant isn't necessarily uninhabitable. It has long been posited that life could evolve in the upper layers.

I doubt it (5, Insightful)

peterprior (319967) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052633)

To quote the late Douglas Adams:

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space."

Re:I doubt it (1)

jam244 (701505) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053335)

To quote the late Douglas Adams: ...
To quote Philip J. Fry:

Space. It seems to go on and on forever. But then you get to the end and the gorilla starts throwing barrels at you.

towel? (2, Funny)

Google85 (797021) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052659)

Will the bacteria hitch-hike to the stars by sticking to towels? After all, a towel is the most important thing for anyone hitchhiking thru the galaxy

Not A Worry (4, Interesting)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052663)

First of all the probability that these rockets hit a habitable planet rather than a star or jupiter like object is going to be extremely low no matter what the article claims. The vast maority of bodies in the universe are not habitable and when you add this to the fact that the really heavy (hence gravitationally powerful) ones aren't habitable the odds become really low. Add in the requirement that the planet not only be habitable but actually habitable by earth bugs and that they land safely after a long radiation filled interstellar journey and it starts to get really unlikely.

But even if this is the case what's the big deal. The big reason we want to prevent contamination of mars and similar bodies is for our scientific interest (don't mess up our later experiments). If these organisms colonize some distant planet why is this a bad thing? Now some planet that didn't have any life at all now does. Maybe in a billion years it will evolve spaceships and explore the universe (hell maybe that's how we happened :-) ).

Either life is common in the universe in which case we just foster a little bit of microbacterial competition (our diseases aren't going to infect complex multicellular aliens) or life is uncommon and we seed a planet with life that might not have otherwise had it. Either way whats the problem?

habitable to bacteria (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19053301)

"First of all the probability that these rockets hit a habitable planet rather than a star or jupiter like object is going to be extremely low no matter what the article claims. The vast maority of bodies in the universe are not habitable and when you add this to the fact that the really heavy (hence gravitationally powerful) ones aren't habitable the odds become really low."

Well, we're talking bacteria here, gravity won't make the slightest difference. It's quite possible that some Earth bacteria could live on a Jupiter-like planet (maybe one that's a bit warmer - as most large extrasolar planets we've found are - and perhaps with different composition). It's also possible that life could evolve on such a planet and be pissed off at meeting Earth bugs.

Still, some other poster got it right. Probability of going close to a star and getting melted >> probability of hitting a planet.

Um (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052689)

We should be actively sending microbes/bacteria etc to the other planets in our system with every mission. Survivors will only make the terraforming process faster and easier.

 

Re:Um (3, Funny)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053099)

Actually, the next time we go to mars the lander should plant something hardy, like a cactus, to see what happens.

Hardly qualifies as a science article... (1)

ogre7299 (229737) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052697)

The writers of this article forget that space is mostly empty. It's obvious that something escaping our solar system will come within a few light years of a star. On average there is about one star per 3 light years cubed (1 star per cubic parsec). Even if the rocket stage passed very close to a star, the likelihood of impacting a planet is very slim since a solar system is again, mostly empty space.

you insensItive clod! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19052719)

ass unt il I hit my

Trial By Fire (1)

catdevnull (531283) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052741)

If (and I mean "if") the bacteria survive an interstellar trip across the great vacuum of space *AND* they survive the immense heat of re-entry *AND* the explosive impact they deserve to live. It's highly unlikely that the bacteria are even still alive in the cold and after the heat of the rocket. Those earth bacteria are pussies.

Re:Trial By Fire (1)

djp928 (516044) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053195)

Those earth bacteria are pussies

Actually, they're far from it. Apollo 12 landed near one of the old Surveyor probes, and the astronauts took cultures from the probe that had been sitting on the moon for three years. Surprisingly, there were still Earth bacteria living on the probes, after three years of exposure to the vacuum, the freezing/burning cycle of the Lunar day, and the harsh radiation from the Sun. Here's an interesting article [nasa.gov] on the subject.

I also recall reading an article recently (can't find it now, unfortunately) about a scientist who worked on some of the Mars probes. He said that there were bacteria that actually evolved in their clean rooms to thrive through all the crap they were trying to do to sterilize the probes before launch. The things actually evolved to eat some of the cleansers they were using or something like that, as I recall. When asked if he thought those bacteria were still ont he probes, he said something like "Oh yeah, they're up there now, on Mars. We couldn't get rid of them."

-- Dave

What about while still on the rocket booster? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19052751)

What are the changes that the bacteria and such will start growing while on the booster itself and maybe even evolving some there?

Re:What about while still on the rocket booster? (1)

NayDizz (821461) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053303)

Or maybe they'll just start a civilization on Bender. All hail the Great Metal Lord.

Not the place for this... (1)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052753)

I can appreciate that this is interesting speculation - a possibly new if unlikely angle on an established set of facts - but... well, isn't that our job? This isn't science, or a new discovery, or a new application of knowledge, or...

Look, it's just a random throwing-it-out-there speculation. That's what comments are for in Slashdot, surely - not actual stories!

[rant]

Re:Not the place for this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19053145)

Articles like this being posted here are warning signs for upcoming government waste and special interest group troublemaking. Now that you have been warned you can recognize efforts to increase bogus unneccessary expenses for NASA and the private space companies and perhaps have some references to nip some of it in the bud. Work with anyone that supports some of those special interest groups by chance? In particular where those groups are made up of well meaning people with sometimes whacko ideas they can be influenced one well meaning individual at a time by cool, calm, collected scientific reasoning. Corporate profit influencing special interest groups are however another thing, here you need to keep your elected officials straight on the facts and warned that they are being watched. Something influenced the author to write this article and something influenced the website editors to publish it, find out who/what and likely you will know why.

Anthrocentricity strikes again... (1)

gotgenes (785704) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052765)

The spacecraft were sterilized, but the rocket stages were not, and they now carry the bacteria of the engineers who handled them.

And what of the 99.999999999...% of the other bacteria in the environment (which includes the Stratosphere and beyond)?...

Too late now. (2, Funny)

ase (39429) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052767)

Where's your prime directive when you really need one?

How do you think we got here? (1)

kennylogins (1092227) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052769)

nt

Hitch A Ride To The Stars (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052803)

Maybe they'll write a "guide" book.

Oblig... (1, Funny)

styryx (952942) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052807)

I, for one, hope that they welcome their new rocket-dwelling, bacteria overlords.

We fight them over there... (1)

T_ConX (783573) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052813)

Remember in War of the Worlds, how the Aliens all died because they got sick from our germs?

Well, by sending our Alien-killing germs into space, we fight them over there (wherever in the galaxy 'there' happens to be) instead of fighting them here!

Oh, sure... we might end up killing off an Alien race that really wasn't a threat in the first place, destabilize an entire Star Cluster, and fuel tensions between the Shi'a-goraths and the Sunni-donnas...

bacteria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19052823)

After 40,000 years the bacteria will have super mutant powers and come back to earth to rule us all!

what's the bid deal? (1)

sAFETY909 (965154) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052849)

What's the big deal? How do you think we got mushrooms?

A debt owed to Columbia; (3, Informative)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052851)

As all great discoveries start with "gee that's weird.." we can thank the Space Shuttle Columbia for proving to us that bacteria can survive an atmosphere entry and planet impact. http://www.cmu.edu/magazine/03fall/wormsurvive.htm l [cmu.edu]

Re:A debt owed to Columbia; (4, Informative)

Excelcia (906188) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053665)

The worms were in canisters, the canisters were in a spacecraft designed to (even if it didn't actually) withstand the stresses of reentry. The spacecraft had already endured most of the heat of reentry and was torn apart by atmospheric stresses, not thermal. The canisters would have rapidly decelerated to their terminal velocity after the orbiter's breakup. In short, the survival of those worms is not so much a demonstration that organism can survive reeentry, than it is a demonstration of stupidity on the part of the scientists who used the fact they survived the accident to posit that organism can survive reentry.

I'm not suggesting than no organism can surive reentry, just that this isn't a valid precedent.

who cares? (1)

drukawski (1083675) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052893)

We have 40,000 years before even one of them come within 2 light years of a planet. I'm sure within 35,000 years some homeless space man will take his space shopping cart full of them to the recycling center for the 10 cent return for us.

The Earth sheds rocks... (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052919)

The Earth (and Mars) shed rocks over time, due to meteor strikes, and some of those will escape the solar system, so it's not like this hasn't been happening over geologic time. Some of the rocks from Mars were ejected gently enough that bacteria would have survived inside. While inefficient, I bet that literally megatons of biologically active rocks have been ejected in this fashion.

By the way, they missed one. Pioneer 10 and 11 were identical spacecraft, both had upper stages that have left the solar system.

You must be kidding (0)

FrankSchwab (675585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19052957)

Intense cold can't be good for them
Intense vacuum should just about completely desiccate them.
Intense radiation should destroy any genetic material in the bacteria

Exposure to all of these for how many years?

pfft. /frank

How about... (1)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053023)

... in 40K years, we'll have the technology to retrieve those discarded items from our distant past thus nullifying any hypothetical outcome we are already discussing here.

wishful thinking or just stupidity? (1)

phreakv6 (760152) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053117)

Given the sheer expanse of time that lies ahead of the four discarded rockets, at least one is likely to eventually encounter a planet.

how did they come up with that?
thats like saying, am throwing up 4 balls in the air, am sure one of them will hit the moon.

space is curved, there are gravitational fields everywhere. chances are that the rockets would be locked in an orbit of some sort or crash somewhere due to the fields.

1.64 light years? (2, Interesting)

thewils (463314) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053131)

I thought the nearest star (after Sol, of course) was Proxima Centauri at 4.2 light years? Is this one closer?

Re:1.64 light years? (1)

C0y0t3 (807909) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053341)

I read that to mean how close the object will pass in relation to the star.

Re:1.64 light years? (1)

thewils (463314) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053455)

Dang. Serves me right for scanning the GP. Ain't the English language wonderful when we can use the term "close" for 1.64 light years. next time my approach misses the green by about 75 yards, I'll be happy that I was relatively "close".

Re:1.64 light years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19053495)

Do a google. AC+79 3888 is moving quickly toward Earth. In ~40k years it will be ~3 light years from Earth and ~1.6 light years from the bacteria laden chunk.

Correction to article (1)

Civil_Disobedient (261825) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053507)

I thought the nearest star (after Sol, of course) was Proxima Centauri at 4.2 light years?

Actually, the article is incorrect. Pioneer 11 will get within 1.65 light-years of the red dwarf AC+79 3888. That will happen sometime around 42,400 AD. Currently, it's about 16.6 light-years away from the sun.

Interestingly, by the time Pioneer 11 reaches AC+79 3888, the red dwarf will only be about 3 light-years away from us (as it's hurtling through space in our general direction).

Chances and pipedreams (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053155)

C'mon, be serious and look at the chances. There's space. It is huge. It is mostly black. And all that black is a big nothing. And in between of those big areas of nothingness there are a few tiiiiiiny little stars. And those few tiiiiiny little stars have even tiiiiiiiiiiinier little planets.

Now, let's be generous and say that this piece of space junk somehow gets into the gravity of one of aformentioned minuscle pieces of light. Let's take this almost improbable chance into account. Now our piece of space debris has a good chance to either get too close to said light source, goes poof and increases the metallicity of the star by some unmeasurable percentage. If (and only if), said piece of junk comes close enough to one of those stars, this is actually what would happen with almost certainty.

Now, let's be even more generous and say that this doesn't happen. It actually hits a planet. There are those big gas balls, in which our space brick goes not poof but crunch, 'cause those balls tend to be heavy and have a gravity that matches that of Oprah. Survival unlikely.

But I have my really generous day today when it comes to probabilities and thus we're gonna hit a rocky piece of space ball. Said ball should have at least something resembling an atmosphere or at least a gentle star or the rays from said star might be too much for our poor, stressed bacteria to handle.

Now, a bacterium, to live, wants to eat. And when bacteria have the munchies, they either resort to photosynthesis or eating other crap. To eat crap, crap has to exist. And that requires other stuff that lives to exist. Or at least something that once lived. Or at least any kind of source for carbon, nitrogen and oxygen and all the other little goodies that make life worthwhile. And, of course, in some useful organisation, I for one wouldn't be too happy with some carbon dioxyde and a bit of NO2.

For photosynthesis, you'd need light, but not too much or you get burned. Too little and you starve to death. Juuuuuust right is what it should be! And of course that's not all, that's just the energy source, now you also need some carbon, oxygene...

In other words, I think NASA and all the other space faring organisations can rest assured that their pollution will not cause too many interstellar wars.

Killing Cylons (2, Funny)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053167)

You don't have to hit a planet to kill a Base-Star full of Cylons. They only have to intercept your probe in space. That would seem to increase the odds of doing damage by sending out unclean derbies from Earth.

God (1)

FungosBauux (929423) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053169)

....then will born a entirely new _intelligent_ specimen that will worship a _GOD_ that created them , but what they never will figure out is that this god was a pile of human spacial-junk. Now the poll, what created us? I bet about some kind of fecal or a;n;a;l bacteria from another specimen.

It's a Non-Issue (1)

weinrich (414267) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053255)

As the booster enters the atmosphere of the planet it will burn up into dust. If any chunks do survive, they will have already reached the same temp needed to sterilize it.

Best-case scenario is some poor sod on a distant planet gets the hover-car in his driveway crushed by a chunk of a booster, with the NASA logo on it, and getting noted in the local paper as the guy that found the space debris with the fossilized bacteria attached to it.

---
** Error 0

We may really be Martians (3, Informative)

peter303 (12292) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053367)

It is likely that Mars become more hospitable to life earlier than early by solidifying sooner. Dozens of Martian meterites have been discovered on earth. Perhaps there have been thousands or millions Martian meteorites over the eons. Bacteria have been found living five miles deep in earth where they may have been cut off from the surface from tens of millions of years or longer. They either live extremely slowly or metabolize other nutrients inside rocks. Rocks are excellent insulators from the heat and pressure of bombardment. Some meteors hitting earth are cool inside, even though their out layers have evaporated away from the heat.

Some these all together and you can make a case for bacteria first evolving on Mars and then infecting earth through meteroic hitchhiking, this happening billions of years ago. then they evolved on Earth while Mars became hostile to life.

Space radiation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19053393)

..woudlent that kill the bacteria ???

Re:Space radiation... (1)

Marnok (780874) | more than 7 years ago | (#19053533)

I think it killed your spelling skills though....

Raised Hopes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19053423)

You raised my hopes and dashed them quite expertly, sir. Bravo!
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