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Tags: space | travel | bacteria | earth | risks | contaminate

Scientists: Space Travel Could Bring Alien Organisms to Earth

Scientists: Space Travel Could Bring Alien Organisms to Earth
(Dreamstime)

By    |   Monday, 29 November 2021 12:24 PM

When we make forays into outer space, there is a chance we may bring back something harmful to Earth.

"In the face of increasing space missions (including those intended to return samples to Earth), it is crucial to reduce the risks of biological contamination in both directions," said Anthony Ricciardi, a professor of invasion biology at McGill University in Montreal, according to The Independent

Any invasive species encountered on an alien planet would probably be microbial and resemble bacteria on Earth, he explained. While the likelihood of any extraterrestrial life form traveling through space is low owing to the harsh conditions of interstellar travel, scientists caution that biological invasions have often been devastating for the plants and animals in these systems.

Speaking with Live Science, Ricciardi said: "We argue that planets and moons potentially containing life should be treated as if they were insular systems." Ricciardi's research was published in the journal BioScience.

The team of researchers noted that insular ecosystems that evolve in geographical isolation, like on islands and Australia, are particularly vulnerable to invasive species, because the native wildlife hasn't evolved adaptations to contend with invaders, Live Science reported.

Humanity should focus on the early detection of biological contaminates and make plans for a rapid response.

NASA has had contingencies for biological risks from outer space since the 1960s, but the "new era of space exploration aimed at targeting areas most likely to contain life," create new challenges, Ricciardi said.

SpaceX, for example, aims to travel to Mars and beyond with its SpaceX Starship program

Biosecurity protocols associated with space travel could be increased, focusing on the early detection of potential biological contaminants and developing plans for a rapid response to detections. 

Space exploration could accelerate contamination, Jennifer Wadsworth, an astrobiologist at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland, told Live Science.

"The line between exploration and conservation is a thin one," Wadsworth said. "One shouldn't be abandoned at the cost of the other, but both require careful consideration and, most importantly, compliance." 

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SciTech
When we make forays into outer space, there is a chance we may bring back something harmful to Earth. "In the face of increasing space missions - including those intended to return samples to Earth...
space, travel, bacteria, earth, risks, contaminate
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2021-24-29
Monday, 29 November 2021 12:24 PM
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