The rise of the private space industry may mean allowing Earth microbes to escape to other worlds, but is it worth the risk?
11 December 2019
By Leah Crane
NEXT July, a trio of spacecraft will begin their journeys to Mars. The US, Europe and China are all taking advantage of a favourable planetary alignment to launch rovers to the Red Planet and search for signs of current and past life. But what happens if a stray Earth microbe hitches a ride?
That is where the principle of planetary protection comes in. The idea is to make sure that microorganisms from Earth don’t end up on other worlds – and vice versa. This is both …