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How to avoid a sneeze that could bring Mars back to life |  cosmic void

How to avoid a sneeze that could bring Mars back to life | cosmic void

A single human sneeze can disperse the equivalent of a million microbes. It is true that they are simple biological organisms that we can only see with the help of a microscope. But they are alive. Usually, they don’t travel much: from interiors to handkerchiefs. Although, if they had a good day and we didn’t have time to cover ourselves, they might end up at the office buddy’s desk or on top of the bald guy sitting in front of the bus. There is also the possibility, remotely, that they could make an incredible, but feasible trip, much further, to the surface of Mars or…

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A single human sneeze can disperse the equivalent of a million microbes. It is true that they are simple biological organisms that we can only see with the help of a microscope. But they are alive. Usually, they don’t travel much: from interiors to handkerchiefs. Although, if they had a good day and we didn’t have time to cover ourselves, they might end up at the office buddy’s desk or on top of the bald guy sitting in front of the bus. There is also a remote possibility that they could make an amazing, but feasible, trip to the surface of Mars or Europa. And they can get there, if they haven’t already, before humans. They’d just have to be very lucky to be in the mouth of, say, an aeronautical engineer working on a space mission.

There are many things about microbes that we didn’t know before. We now have evidence from their studies on Earth that there are some organisms known by the universal name of extremists They are able to live and survive in conditions intolerable or even fatal for most forms of life.

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years of study in Astrobiology They also tested the effects of outer space on the survival of terrestrial microorganisms: some are able to withstand temperature extremes, the constant influence of micrometeorology, and the high levels of radiation found outside our atmosphere. Through experiments that aim not only at torturing these “little bugs” to see how long they can last (poor tardigrades have been done with everything and they’ve survived just about everything, though perhaps not on the moon), But from space microbial resistance we can learn a lot about extraterrestrial life and use this knowledge for future exploration missions.

The first and important missiles Apollo 16 They showed, for example, that bacterial spores can survive deep space conditions, and subsequent experiments confirmed that they could do so even for as long as a year (ldef. NASA’s Extended Exposure Facility( to 6 )EURECA; ESA’s European Recoverable Carrier). The survival of a variety of microbes that are tolerant to drought and radiation under conditions similar to those on Mars was tested in the EXPOSE experiment conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA) as part of European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF) outside the International Space Station. Furthermore, her reactivation upon return to Earth, her ability to revive so to speak, indicates that she is able to repair the damage accumulated on her DNA.

The question today is that if these microorganisms are able to survive in space, they have the potential to contaminate other celestial bodies and that means that under the right conditions on the surface of another planet, they would also have the potential to revive and propagate. Avoiding exactly this is one of the main reasons why planetary protection protocols have been developed through an international organization called COSPAR (Commission on Space Research abbreviated in English).

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Almost every country with an active space program has signed a treaty that sets basic criteria based on where it’s going (Mars, Moon, asteroid, back to Earth) and what it’s going to do (it’s not the same as passing, circling, or landing on the surface) allocating specific categories depending on contamination risk. This extends to the possibility of polluting our planet with some biological samples that are brought from abroad.

Thus, all missions traveling to a solar system object are categorized into one of five classes, class one through five, with increasing risks. For example, 300,000 microbes are allowed to take off on a mission to Mars and it is assumed that when they arrive they will be biologically inert. But in certain regions of Mars, fewer particles are allowed. To put these numbers into perspective, an unfiltered room has 1 billion particles per cubic meter and a clean room like those used on space missions has standards of 100,000 or fewer particles per cubic meter of air (that’s a volume of 0.1 micron or greater).

The main goal of planetary protection protocols is to reduce the possibility of taking life with us on exploration missions to other bodies in the solar system, since eliminating it completely is very difficult. It would be a fiasco to make a journey of millions of kilometers to the surface of another celestial body to discover, by chance, the life we ​​brought from home.

cosmic void It is a section in which our knowledge of the universe is presented in a quantitative and qualitative way. It aims to explain the importance of understanding the universe not only from a scientific point of view but also from a philosophical, social and economic point of view. The name “cosmic vacuum” refers to the fact that the universe is, for the most part, empty, with less than one atom per cubic meter, despite the fact that in our environment, paradoxically, there are quintillions of atoms per cubic meter, which invites us to think about our existence and the existence of life. in the universe. Section consists of Pablo J. Perez GonzalezResearcher at the Center for Astrobiology W Eva VillaverResearcher at the Center for Astrobiology.

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