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Mars Earth Space

ISS Studies Show Bacteria From Earth Could Colonize Mars 103

As reported by Tech Times, research conducted aboard the ISS has shown that Earth bacteria could survive the rigors of travel to Mars better than might be expected. "Research into bacterial colonization on the red planet was not part of the plan to terraform the alien world ahead of human occupation. Instead, three teams investigated how to prevent microbes from Earth from hitching a ride to the red planet aboard spacecraft. It is nearly impossible to remove all biological contaminants from equipment headed to other planets. By better understanding what organisms can survive in space or on the surfaces of other worlds, mission planners can learn which forms of microscopic life to concentrate on during the sanitation process. 'If you are able to reduce the numbers to acceptable levels, a proxy for cleanliness, the assumption is that the life forms will not survive under harsh space conditions,' Kasthuri Venkateswaran of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and co-author of all three papers, said."
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ISS Studies Show Bacteria From Earth Could Colonize Mars

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  • how long? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So, group A wants to find extraterrestrial life. Group B wants to begin terraforming. How long must group B defer to group A?
    • Re:how long? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by RoLi ( 141856 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:36AM (#46917285)

      Forever, because terraforming Mars makes no sense.

      Just think about it: Here on Earth, we put more and more plants under greenhouse because greenhouses are simply better for plant growth than the natural environment.

      Any terraforming of Mars would not only take almost forever but would result in an Antarctica-like climate were you would still need greenhouses anyway. It just makes much more sense to skip the terraforming-part altogether and just use greenhouses without any terraforming.

      • by Barryke ( 772876 )

        The greenhouses have waste products, like smoke. Where should these end up?
        The sky would not stay clear enough to keep using greenhouses. The planet must have a way to stabilize itself as a huge waste-recycling plant / ecosystem.

        • Trying to terraform Mars is like trying to terraform the Moon - like the joke I heard: have you heard about the new restaurant on the Moon? No? Well the food is great but there is no atmosphere. Because there aint enough gravity to hold one. Whatever you can do on Mars, you can probably do on the Moon, which is closer, except the security part, i.e. putting up a secret human colony on the other side of the Moon is not good enough if you can also do it on Mars, however Mars is not gravitationally locked to u
          • Btw China just recently completed the most detailed surface scan of the Moon ever, especially the other side, so if my Jews got a colony up there, they either hid it well, or they don't got one at all. Expect China to eventually put up a colony then. And you're not gonna hear about the launch in the news, their space program is gonna be stuck in the past, officially speaking. That's my ultraparanoid side speaking, and ultraparanoid stuff is very far from reality, but there is a 0.0002% chance of being or be
            • If you're going to terraform Venus, you probably want to do the orbit shifting nuclear catastrophy first, if you ever plan to do it. Also, the Habsburg motto contains "for the realms which Mars awards to others, Venus transfers to you," and by that they mean wage love, instead of waging war, because it's more economical, waging war takes money, money, money, but waging love is pretty cheap. Still, Venus the planet is kind of their turf so they should be consulted on it. Whatever you do, whether you bomb Ven
              • by jandrese ( 485 )
                If you could somehow break the runaway greenhouse effect on Venus it would be by far the best colonization option in the solar system outside of maybe the Moon (and only because the Moon is relatively close to us).

                I have not done the math, but a good start might be slamming the mother of all comets into the planet to both blow most of the atmosphere away and to introduce a planet's worth of liquid water. Then dump massive amounts of engineered plankton on the planet to start fixing the CO2 and also start
                • Mars' atmosphere is thin because of low gravity - it will never hold any kind of proper atmosphere. See [] for sizes. Venus is damn close to Earth in size. I don't have time to look up the atmospheric composition, but even if fully made Earth-like, it would have bad weather forbidding most space missions to it, because of greenhouse effect from water vapor. Venus is too hot, and once it's too hot it's got a lot water in the atmosphere to make it even hotter. You gotta put up s
                  • Venus and mars are hopeless for long-term Terraforming. Mars mostly lost its atmosphere due to solar wind ablation and Venus will lose its the same way eventually. No matter how established we ever got there, we'd have to live close to radiation shelters for the inevitable solar burps due to the same reason the atmospheres are doomed - no magnetophere to divert the solar wind around the atmosphere.

                    Adding more water to Venus would probably make the atmosphere worse and even if that managed to be cleared the

                    • There is something nice about living on a planet, instead of outer space. Like the shooting-star meteorite burning atmosphere - on a space station it's a constant issue when you get hit by an object traveling 10-20 km/s, and the leak you have to patch - so they may have to be triple walled, with gradually dropping pressure zones, so the leaks take time, and then glass or transparent triple walls are very expensive to make meteorite resistant, so you probably have just solar panels or nuclear reactor, and fu
                    • It's really difficult to patiently modify orbits with an ion gun, especially when you need a sudden move, at a specific position in a moon's orbit around a planet, or an asteroid's position around the Sun. You can keep sending a moon into higher and higher orbit, but then when releasing it toward the Sun, that probably has to be done suddenly. So the good thing is that if it's an object without an atmosphere holding back an explosion, a Tsar bomba exploded on the surface will send half of the explosion mate
                    • I just figured out how to fix the pH - all you gotta do is convert the sulfuric acid into pH neutral elemental sulfur. Which is what we have here on Earth, tons of elemental sulfur. Because of which, if the temperature gets out of hand here too, at high temperature, the stable state of sulfur is probably sulfuric acid, not elemental sulfur, so you ARE looking at the future of Earth, when you're looking at Venus, when Earth's magnetic van Allen solar wind protection disappears. How long until that? A couple
                    • Also the rotation of Earth keeps slowing, because of gravitational tides by the Sun - the Moon is already locked to the Earth, always showing the same side, because if it were rotating, that would create tides in its crust, and frictional heat, until the rotation stopped, like it already did. So if Earth's rotation stopped, one side would be really hot, the other really cold, so it's in our interest that it never happens, and get as much uniform temperature surface and living space as possible. The way to h
              • by Bardez ( 915334 )
                And the American Bison are more delicious and somewhat healthier than beef. I, for one, am very glad that they were not driven to extinction. Because now I get to eat them, too.
          • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
            Mars is capable of holding atmosphere for hundreds of millions of years. Mars has more than enough gravity to hold together Earth-like atmosphere with negligible losses.

            The main problem is the solar wind, it consists of fast-moving particles that can give enough push to ions and atoms in the atmosphere to achieve escape velocity. But solar wind is very thin, so it's not like it'll be an immediate threat.
        • by flyneye ( 84093 )

          Do not waste products from your greenhouse. There is NOTHING that comes from a greenhouse that is waste or you have been doing it WRONG.

          • Ironically, earth is a greenhouse, we waste just about everything.
            Keep the humans off of Mars, we will infect it. As long as we clean out bots we send there we should be able to get by with remote surfing the sands of Mars.
      • If the ice caps were nuked, wouldn't that throw up enough CO2 and water vapor? Would a greenhouse effect be sustainable for several generations (aside from having an ineffective magnetosphere)?

      • I disagree. Mars is the only planet in the solar system where terraforming would be possible, and for that reason it should be done. Of course, it will take a very long time and won't even be started in our lifetimes. Humans may well live there for centuries until domes before terraforming starts. Terraforming provides opportunities to a solar system based civilization. It is a second life arc. Endangered species could be put there. Or experiments with new ecosystems and new lifeforms could be tried t
    • by flyneye ( 84093 )

      Split the difference and send Yogurt cultures to Mars. It may not produce anything Earthlike, but, who could resist a YUMMY Red planet?

  • Everyone knows that sterile and almost sterile are close enough for government work.

    • That's what I heard about harem eunuchs!
    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      You simply need to put everything through a Transporter, which has a biofilter.
  • by TrollstonButterbeans ( 2914995 ) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @08:46PM (#46915925)
    Title of TFA = "Bacteria from Earth can easily colonize Mars"

    And article makes no such claim.

    It says spores would survive to Mars, which isn't surprising.

    Once there, then what?

    No singificant amounts water, no source of nutrients to digest, no oxygen to convert sugar to energy. temperatures around -40 celsius, possibly toxic soil and atmospheric pressure low enough it might affect metabolism otherwise --- and little shielding from ultraviolet light (no ozone layer).

    Article title is fun proof of what happens when someone with to no interest/education in science tries to interpret information and draw a conclusion.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The story is so recently stolen from the Reddit front page that it's still viewable there within a few "next page" clicks.

      The real problem you're noticing is Dice and the hacks like timothy not giving a fuck about Slashdot, let alone education or science.

    • by tsotha ( 720379 )
      That's what I was thinking. Putting earth bacteria on mars is like dropping naked people on the north pole and saying "go forth and multiply". I can't imagine them colonizing anything except in tandem with humans.
      • by aliquis ( 678370 )

        like dropping naked people on the north pole and saying "go forth and multiply".

        That sounds like my only chance!

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Nature can surprise you... Given an energy source and materials to make copies with (mostly, water) bacteria can do pretty impressive things, and moreso if one gets in a groove and spreads across a new planet without competition.

      • Exactly.
        The article says that they can GET to Mars... in ensporulated (inactive) form.
        I can even believe that they can survive on Mars... in inactive form.
        But can they metabolize and reproduce and spread once they get to Mars?? That's a lot harder. Mars is cold. Mars is dry. Mars is irradiated with UV.
        I could imagine that some organisms that are simultaneously extreme cryophiles, and halophiles (any water that is liquid is going to be very saline) and also radiation tolerant might survive... but these o

        • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:15AM (#46917241) Journal
          The question is not weather they will spread on Mars, the question is how do you prevent experimental equipment designed to detect Martian microbes from detecting Earth microbes that came along for the ride. Also they do not need to be exotic Earth species to survive inside the equipment, common lichen for example can survive the vacuum/radiation of space for at least a year, as demonstrated by experiments performed at the ISS.
    • by NatasRevol ( 731260 ) on Sunday May 04, 2014 @10:57PM (#46916263) Journal

      No singificant amounts water, no source of nutrients to digest, no oxygen to convert sugar to energy. temperatures around -40 celsius, possibly toxic soil and atmospheric pressure low enough it might affect metabolism otherwise --- and little shielding from ultraviolet light (no ozone layer).

      And yet life lives here on earth under those conditions - middle of the desert, at the poles, thousands of feet under water.

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        There's life that may well survive on Mars but what are the odds that it'll infect a spacecraft? Eventually we could send a cocktail of extremophiles and let nature do its thing but it would be nice to have a look around first.

      • by aXis100 ( 690904 )

        But we wouldnt be sending extremeophiles to Mars. They would be regular "goldilocks zone" contamination, like from someone's skin or a sneeze. These bacteria would not be adapted to Mars and would die instantly.

      • Yes but are there any microbes that survive all of those in an active form at the same time? I don't disbelieve that some inactive microbes could essentially hibernate on Mars indefinitely. However certain conditions need to exist for those microbes to flourish.

        The little critters near the thermal vents in the bottom of the ocean are pretty tough but ultraviolet light isn't something they've ever had to deal with and its unlikely they have any protection against it. Same with anything in antartica. They can

        • Well, let's see.

          There's some water at the martian poles.

          Send a holder that can survive being plunged 10 feet into the martian surface shouldn't be hard.

          LOTS of bacteria can survive, or even require, 0 oxygen - anerobic bacteria. I'm sure that a few of those can survive 1 or 2 other requirements of Mars.

      • Mddle of the desert on Earth supports a solvent (liquid water) and the poles of Earth have tons of water.

        A basic "unit" of life on Earth is a "cell". A cell contains solvent (i.e. fluid).

        Mars doesn't have the atmospheric pressure today to support most of the simple liquids available in any quantities in the universe.

        Both water and ammonia would sublimate on Mars today ( solid evaporates directly to gas, skipping liquid phase like a block of carbon dioxide melting here on Earth) --- ammonia is sometimes
    • by nbauman ( 624611 )

      Title of TFA = "Bacteria from Earth can easily colonize Mars"

      And article makes no such claim.

      Article title is fun proof of what happens when someone with to no interest/education in science tries to interpret information and draw a conclusion.

      You obviously know nothing about writing headlines. []

    • by mmell ( 832646 )
      On the up side . . . if only one out of a million microbial hitchhikers actually survives on Mars, it could well be a start in the teraforming process. It'd sure screw the pooch on looking for evidence of (native) life on the red planet, but it also strikes me as step one in making it habitable by things like us.
      • Life permeates the Earth's crust down to the bottom of the deepest bores we have drilled, it gets it energy from minerals such as sulphur, and water. From what we know the surface of Mars appears to be dead due to the fact that water (the universal solvent) can not exist in liquid form on the Martian surface, but it can (and does) exist in liquid form just below the surface (due to pressure from the overlaying material).

        We know that life arose on Earth pretty much as soon as the ocean formed, and there's
    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      The environment of Mars is positively paradise compared to the that of outer space.
  • by ruir ( 2709173 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @06:11AM (#46917539)
    Find some sort of revenue which can be taxed/robbed and send some politicians in...
  • In other news:

    NASA May Put Greenhouse on Mars in 2021 []

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson