Author Topic: Mars 2020/Curiosity and planetary protection  (Read 15498 times)

Offline Watchdog

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Re: Mars 2020/Curiosity and planetary protection
« Reply #20 on: 06/01/2018 08:48 am »
"It's extremely unlikely that terrestrial bacteria will eat up any hypothetical martian microbes.  The environment will be too hostile for terrestrial organisms to thrive, indigenous forms will out compete them.  We see that on Earth.  Nor is it likely that that they will eat them, biochemistry will be too alien."

I agree with most of your arguments. However, there is at least one example of fast evolutionary adaptation of an organism to new potential "sources of food" on our planet:

"In 2016, scientists from Japan tested different bacteria from a bottle recycling plant and found that Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6 could digest the plastic used to make single-use drinks bottles, polyethylene terephthalate (PET). It works by secreting an enzyme (a type of protein that can speed up chemical reactions) known as PETase. This splits certain chemical bonds (esters) in PET, leaving smaller molecules that the bacteria can absorb, using the carbon in them as a food source.

Although other bacterial enzymes were already known to slowly digest PET, the new enzyme had apparently evolved specifically for this job." (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/plastic-eating-bacteria-chemist-science-pollution-pet-recycling-a8311811.html).

Therefore, we should not underestimate the ability of terrestrial life forms to adapt and evolve. In order to sustain any permanent human presence on Mars, we need to import lots of earthly life forms (plants, soil microflora and microfauna, small and medium animals). Scientist may want to conduct terraforming experiments involving genetically modified organisms artificially adapted to Mars conditions. But this is exceeding the topic of this thread.

Offline mlindner

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Re: Mars 2020/Curiosity and planetary protection
« Reply #21 on: 06/16/2018 12:01 am »
I may be in the minority opinion but I consider planetary protection absurd. If there is life, it will be eventually found. Until large scale terraforming efforts start any bacterial life will be uniformly spread across the planet unless it was recently added. Life spreads across a body on the order of decades, not billions of years. All life on Earth shares a huge amount of its DNA. If it's based on life from Earth it will be immediately obvious. If it's actual life from Earth brought with people/rovers then we'll also immediately know.

NASA should immediately remove the office of planetary protection. It's a nuisance and serves no purpose except for perpetuation of non-science appeals to nature.

Offline Star One

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Re: Mars 2020/Curiosity and planetary protection
« Reply #22 on: 06/16/2018 10:20 am »
I may be in the minority opinion but I consider planetary protection absurd. If there is life, it will be eventually found. Until large scale terraforming efforts start any bacterial life will be uniformly spread across the planet unless it was recently added. Life spreads across a body on the order of decades, not billions of years. All life on Earth shares a huge amount of its DNA. If it's based on life from Earth it will be immediately obvious. If it's actual life from Earth brought with people/rovers then we'll also immediately know.

NASA should immediately remove the office of planetary protection. It's a nuisance and serves no purpose except for perpetuation of non-science appeals to nature.

Thankfully your’s is a minority viewpoint that most sensible people would have nothing to do with.

Offline Welsh Dragon

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Re: Mars 2020/Curiosity and planetary protection
« Reply #23 on: 06/16/2018 10:53 am »
I may be in the minority opinion but I consider planetary protection absurd. If there is life, it will be eventually found. Until large scale terraforming efforts start any bacterial life will be uniformly spread across the planet unless it was recently added. Life spreads across a body on the order of decades, not billions of years. All life on Earth shares a huge amount of its DNA. If it's based on life from Earth it will be immediately obvious. If it's actual life from Earth brought with people/rovers then we'll also immediately know.

NASA should immediately remove the office of planetary protection. It's a nuisance and serves no purpose except for perpetuation of non-science appeals to nature.
Thank god actual scientists think a bit more than you do.

Offline hop

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Re: Mars 2020/Curiosity and planetary protection
« Reply #24 on: 06/16/2018 09:34 pm »
For anyone doubting the scientific basis of current PP guidelines, I'd encourage you to read some of the papers available on https://planetaryprotection.nasa.gov/documents

For Mars 2020 "A New Analysis of Mars ‘‘Special Regions’’: Findings of the Second MEPAG Special Regions Science Analysis Group" is a good starting point.

There's plenty of room to disagree on the policy details, but the current practice is the result of a lot of hard work by lot of people with a deep of knowledge of the relevant science.

The suggestion that NASA should unilaterally abandon PP also ignores the fact that the US has international obligations: https://cosparhq.cnes.fr/scientific-structure/ppp

Offline Star One

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Mars 2020/Curiosity and planetary protection
« Reply #25 on: 07/04/2018 09:18 am »
NASA's Planetary Protection Policies Need to Be Updated, Report Finds

Quote
A new report recommends that NASA update its policies that protect planets and other solar system bodies from possible contamination during space exploration missions.

The current process for planetary protection policy development is inadequate, according to the report, which was published by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. It notes that private-sector space exploration activities are another reason why planetary protection policies need re-examination.

The 170-page report — "Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes" — calls for NASA to develop a strategic plan for planetary protection, assess the completeness of policies and initiate a process to formally define requirements that are missing.

Quote
Spotlighted in the report are Mars sample-return missions and exploration campaigns to the icy, ocean-harboring moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

https://amp.space.com/41060-nasa-planetary-protection-policies-questioned.html

You can download the free report here.

https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25172/review-and-assessment-of-planetary-protection-policy-development-processes
« Last Edit: 07/04/2018 09:20 am by Star One »

Offline Dalhousie

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Re: Mars 2020/Curiosity and planetary protection
« Reply #26 on: 07/06/2018 09:14 am »
"It's extremely unlikely that terrestrial bacteria will eat up any hypothetical martian microbes.  The environment will be too hostile for terrestrial organisms to thrive, indigenous forms will out compete them.  We see that on Earth.  Nor is it likely that that they will eat them, biochemistry will be too alien."

I agree with most of your arguments. However, there is at least one example of fast evolutionary adaptation of an organism to new potential "sources of food" on our planet:

"In 2016, scientists from Japan tested different bacteria from a bottle recycling plant and found that Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6 could digest the plastic used to make single-use drinks bottles, polyethylene terephthalate (PET). It works by secreting an enzyme (a type of protein that can speed up chemical reactions) known as PETase. This splits certain chemical bonds (esters) in PET, leaving smaller molecules that the bacteria can absorb, using the carbon in them as a food source.

Although other bacterial enzymes were already known to slowly digest PET, the new enzyme had apparently evolved specifically for this job." (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/plastic-eating-bacteria-chemist-science-pollution-pet-recycling-a8311811.html).

Therefore, we should not underestimate the ability of terrestrial life forms to adapt and evolve. In order to sustain any permanent human presence on Mars, we need to import lots of earthly life forms (plants, soil microflora and microfauna, small and medium animals). Scientist may want to conduct terraforming experiments involving genetically modified organisms artificially adapted to Mars conditions. But this is exceeding the topic of this thread.

It's fascinating research.  Keep the following caveats in mind.

1) The microbes had to be able to live in this environment in the first place - it could not have been too hot/cold/wet/dry etc. Only living (not dormant) and reproducing microbes evolve. 

2) There must be an existing relevant biological function that is appropriate to the new environment so that selection can work on (in this case presumably at least some ability to metaploise plastic like substances, even to a small degree)

3) The niche must be vacant otherwise native microbes will outcompete the newcomers

On Mars 1) will only happen (at best) locally and seasonally in the subsurface. Whether these conditions actually exist is unknown.  If this is met then 2) may apply, provided the microbes in question can actually do this.  However if 3) applies, the chances of survival is small. Human gut microbes can't survive for any great length of time in groundwater, for example.

If 2) and 3) des not then there may be terraforming possibilities I agree, but that's another story.
"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

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