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Is Curiosity carrying Earth bacteria ?

Posted on Thursday, 13 September, 2012 | Comment icon 55 comments

Image credit: NASA

NASA's Mars rover may have inadvertantly carried bacteria from Earth on to Mars in its drillbits.

Reports have suggested that a NASA engineer may have opened the sealed drill unit a few months before launch in order to install a drillbit because he was concerned that the rough landing might make this impossible later on. The team dedicated to preventing contamination were never consulted about the move, meaning that it is possible microbes could have hitched a ride on the drillbit and are now multiplying on the Curiosity rover.

It isn't clear how accurate this report is or what NASA would do if it turned out to be true. It is possible that NASA will decide not to use the drill on the rover at all as a result of the error.

"Worried scientists at Nasa now estimate that there may be as many as 250,000 bacterial spores that could have survived both the journey to Mars and the landing."

  View: Full article |  Source: Wired

  Discuss: View comments (55)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #46 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 17 September, 2012, 21:30
In space has already been done. As I posted earlier bacteria has survived more than 500 days on the outside of the ISS. It follows that if bacteria can survive that long in earth orbit they can probably survive that long in the less harsh environment of the Martian surface. I also disagree that the only way is to send bacteria to another planet. It is perfectly possible to reproduce the conditions of, for example, the Martian surface on Earth. In fact it is preferable to do so. Experiments must be reproducible. Simply sending bacteria to another planet and seeing if they survive would be ... [More]
Comment icon #47 Posted by DONTEATUS on 17 September, 2012, 23:22
THis is why we must look very close to what we do ,But Do we must !
Comment icon #48 Posted by Sundew on 21 September, 2012, 3:27
This may indeed make the search for Martian life problematic, if the very tools used to search for biology as we know it are contaminated with Earth organisms. Frankly I have always wondered how you can sterilize something as complex as a space ship, even though it may have been assembled in a clean room. Life always seems to find a way to survive and move from place to place and it is so pervasive that this almost had to happen at some point. That said, I do wonder if Earth bacteria could ever survive on Mars. It would be extremely unlikely that these would be so-called extremophile bacteria,... [More]
Comment icon #49 Posted by MID on 6 October, 2012, 16:42
What then? Then, we understand that Mars is and always has been a lifeless world. However, with water, evidence of its liquid state in the past...possibly more recently than you might think, and very little insight into specifics about the Mars past (they are undoubtedly buried beneath the surface), it's unwise to even speculate about possible findings on Mars. There are years of exploration and research ahead of us. This terraforming idea comes up here alot. Why in the name of hell would we do such a thing to a planet? Man-made Martian warming???? It will be decades and decade... [More]
Comment icon #50 Posted by DONTEATUS on 6 October, 2012, 17:35
YEah ! Man looks at TIme in such a different way than the Earth Looks at time ! We just need to keep from over populating ourselfs ! Wars will and other factors will take care of the rest of our Follies ! Remember Doom and Gloom and all that mankind can mustard ! Now Thats an Idea ! Manwich`s No need to worrie about running out of Food on this Rock We just make more of Us ! Solent Green anyone?
Comment icon #51 Posted by MID on 6 October, 2012, 19:15
But D...Soylent Green is people!
Comment icon #52 Posted by DONTEATUS on 8 October, 2012, 3:56
Yummy ! to My Tummy ! Dry agged for 40 days @ 40 deg`s Tender as an Aliens behind ! Now Thats prime rib ! You will all be crazy If I told you Im only a few miles from the White House for the next week ! I`ll be ckin out Ben`s Chili,and Halfsmoked, Some Prime Crabs from down the road in Va. and Some of the best Brother-n-Law cooking next to my B.B.Q ! See y`az! And Mid ! Dont worrie ! Im not going to let the D.C. secret out about the Little Greys they have working under the White House ! LoL!
Comment icon #53 Posted by skookum on 10 October, 2012, 16:53
Even if it did get there and survive, would we be able to detect it with the equipment there at the moment?
Comment icon #54 Posted by MID on 13 October, 2012, 1:08
Roger that, D! Copy and understand. M
Comment icon #55 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 13 October, 2012, 13:29
The bigger problem is not whether we could detect it now. If it does spread then how will we know if there was indigenous life on Mars in future samples returned to Earth?

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