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NASA directive will protect us from alien bugs

July 15, 2020 | Comment icon 9 comments

We all know what can happen... Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Gabygaiffe
A new NASA Interim Directive (NID) aims to ensure that Earth is protected from extraterrestrial contamination.
As if the coronavirus pandemic wasn't enough of a problem, imagine what might happen if a future mission to Mars was to inadvertently bring home some sort of alien pathogen - a contaminant that humanity might have little hope of ever defeating.

It's a scenario that NASA takes very seriously - as evidenced by a recent NASA Interim Directive (NID) which, among other things, emphasized that "safeguarding the Earth from potential back[ward] contamination is the highest planetary protection priority in Mars exploration."

"Why wouldn't we go ahead and be cautious, given that we only have this one biosphere and we like it here ?" said former NASA Planetary Protection Officer John Rummel.

"We don't know anything about potential pathogens on Mars, only that we think they're unlikely."

While it is certainly reassuring that NASA is taking precautions to prevent backward contamination, it is also worth considering the possibility that the opposite could also happen - astronauts from Earth could carry organisms from Earth to other worlds and contaminate those environments.

Such a scenario could destroy any resident life forms or make it very difficult for scientists to determine if any organisms found there actually originated there or if they came from Earth.

Whatever the case, preventing the transport of such organisms from one world to another, whichever way round that might happen, should certainly be a priority for future space missions.

Source: | Comments (9)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Nnicolette 2 years ago
Remember the andromeda strain?
Comment icon #2 Posted by Desertrat56 2 years ago
I read that book when I was in high school.  (when it first came out, I am old,  ) I never saw the movie, but I suspect that is what you were referring to. 
Comment icon #3 Posted by Biggz 2 years ago
Real life MIB
Comment icon #4 Posted by Hazzard 2 years ago
Comment icon #5 Posted by Nnicolette 2 years ago
I never saw the movie but it was a true story
Comment icon #6 Posted by Golden Duck 2 years ago
Huh?  It was written by Michael Crichton, wasn't it?  Are you sure you're not getting confused by some assertion that it was inspired by something or other?
Comment icon #7 Posted by Hazzard 2 years ago
Nope. It was inspired by another book called The IPCRESS files (a spy novel about mindcontrol) by Len Deighton that came out in 1962.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Desertrat56 2 years ago
Yes, it was a novel published in the early 70's, started Michael Crichton's career. 
Comment icon #9 Posted by razman 2 years ago
And does the NASA thing also include bringing a sample from a asteroid back?

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