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Mars NASA

Curiosity Rover May Have Brought Dozens of Microbes To Mars 97

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the spreading-life-probably-just-as-interesting dept.
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Despite rigorous pre-flight cleaning, swabbing of the Curiosity Rover just prior to liftoff revealed some 377 strains of bacteria. 'In the lab, scientists exposed the microbes to desiccation, UV exposure, cold and pH extremes. Nearly 11% of the 377 strains survived more than one of these severe conditions. Thirty-one per cent of the resistant bacteria did not form tough, protective spore coats; the researchers suspect that they used other biochemical means of protection, such as metabolic changes.' While the risk of contaminating the red planet are unknown, knowing the types of strains that may have survived pre-flight cleaning may help rule out biological 'discoveries' if and when NASA carries out its plans to return a soil sample from Mars."
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Curiosity Rover May Have Brought Dozens of Microbes To Mars

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  • by mendax (114116) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @03:11AM (#47044241)

    It has been speculated that life here on Earth came from space. And there has been speculation that this life may have come from Mars thanks to asteroid impacts ejecting material with enough energy to reach escape velocity, some of this material reaching the Earth in its early primordial history. Well, if this is the case, we're returning the favor.

  • by mendax (114116) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @03:52AM (#47044381)

    It just occurred to me that even if we were to find only bacteria whose ancestor's hitchhiked their way to Mars from Earth on one of our probes, that would be a remarkable find in itself. It would demonstrate that life could have existed on Mars at one time even if we don't find any native Martian bugs.

  • by Strider- (39683) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @04:09AM (#47044441)

    The policy is under the auspices of the Outer Space Treaty, which has been ratified by both China and India (along with the United States). Given that the Scientists and Engineers who tend to be involved in these projects are generally rational people (even if they're doing a politician's bidding), I'd say that the chance of things being done reasonably correctly are good.

  • by geekmux (1040042) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @04:54AM (#47044565)

    If these microbes ever evolve to something as intelligent as us humans, their archaeologists will have quite some explaining to do when they dig up the Curiosity rover.

    Yes, I seem to recall a similar race standing about staring at these insanely accurate pyramid-shaped structures.

    You have a pretty extreme example by comparison there, too.

    We can't explain how rocks got stacked so precisely thousands of years later.

    Them finding Curiosity would be equal to us finding a 10,000-year old Tesla Roadster sitting in a monastery garage right next to the cold fusion fridge.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @06:15AM (#47044779)

    There were some (only slightly) successful Soviet Mars landers. They were not sterilized at all.

  • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:59AM (#47045405) Homepage Journal

    It just occurred to me that even if we were to find only bacteria whose ancestor's hitchhiked their way to Mars from Earth on one of our probes, that would be a remarkable find in itself. It would demonstrate that life could have existed on Mars at one time even if we don't find any native Martian bugs.

    A mars rover is encapsulated during travel, so bacteria do not experience UV radiation and solar wind they would on other bodies (meteoroids).

  • Re:Achievement (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Brett Buck (811747) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @10:53AM (#47046319)

    To add to this, also sterilize it to practical limits given danger to the flight hardware. Many of the early Ranger lunar-impact missions had hardware failures on the way, eventually strongly suspected to have been caused by damage due to heat-sterilization:

    http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/n... [nasa.gov]

              Once they backed off on the degree of sterilization, the rate of random failures dropped dramatically.

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