Author Topic: BFS quarantine ?  (Read 4302 times)

Offline MickQ

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BFS quarantine ?
« on: 01/13/2018 05:45 AM »
I have not seen this mentioned or discussed anywhere so.....

Will BFS returning from Mars need to be cleaned, de-contaminated etc before landing back on Earth ?

Mick.

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #1 on: 01/13/2018 08:15 AM »
I seriously doubt there’s anything that might need to be removed, there’s quite a lot of Mars material on Earth already. But even if they were, I’m not sure what could be practically done before landing on Earth (eg in LEO) that would be any more effective than the months of travel in deep space to get from Mars back to Earth and then the rigours of re-entry.

Online gongora

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #2 on: 01/13/2018 01:26 PM »
I have not seen this mentioned or discussed anywhere so.....

Will BFS returning from Mars need to be cleaned, de-contaminated etc before landing back on Earth ?

Mick.

That is a good question. I doubt we'll find out an answer anytime soon.

Offline laszlo

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #3 on: 01/13/2018 01:40 PM »
Even if Mars seems sterile when the first BFS is ready to go, a return quarantine will be politically necessary at least. After all, think of the bad publicity if Elon's plan to save the human species from planet-wide catastrophes results in everyone dying of Mars Plague.

If actual life of any sort is discovered on Mars before SpaceX starts its colonization attempts I don't see how quarantine can be avoided. In fact, if life is discovered before the attempt starts, that may be enough to delay or terminate the attempt.


Offline AncientU

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #4 on: 01/13/2018 01:50 PM »
What was NASA planning to do?  Mars sample return, for instance, or the comet sample return?

Having people on Mars is something of a canary-in-the-cage test case, though.  Not that those travelers shouldn't take isolation lab precautions, at least for the first few years.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
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Offline Dave G

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #5 on: 01/13/2018 02:47 PM »
there’s quite a lot of Mars material on Earth already.
Yes, but it's all gone through fiery hell to get here.

But even if they were, I’m not sure what could be practically done before landing on Earth (eg in LEO) that would be any more effective than the months of travel in deep space to get from Mars back to Earth and then the rigors of re-entry.
If you haven't seen the movie "Life", they dive into this exact scenario.

Offline TripD

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #6 on: 01/13/2018 05:56 PM »
Quote
Will BFS returning from Mars need to be cleaned, de-contaminated etc before landing back on Earth ?

Quote
If you haven't seen the movie "Life", they dive into this exact scenario.

Even though the movie suggested an inane disregard for common sense, it does bring up the human factor in all of this.  Once the mars commute becomes a thing, how long will it take before the first souvenirs begin to make their way back to earth?  If no life is found for a stretch of time, will strict protocols be considered quaint and burdensome? How long is long enough?

Offline the_other_Doug

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #7 on: 01/14/2018 12:59 AM »
The Apollo quarantine period began at the moment the hatch was opened between the CSM and the returning LM, on the theory that at that point, all three crewmen had been exposed to lunar material.  If, 21 days after that, no one showed any signs of infection or other malady, the quarantine ended.

Mars is a lot farther away than a 21 day travel time.  Heck, I can't imagine the first exposure to Martian soils, etc., will be less than 21 days before the first Mars landing crew starts coming home, much less get back.

The time on Mars and the return trip are massively longer than any quarantine period the most conservative/paranoid doctors would ask for, I think.
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline MickQ

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #8 on: 01/14/2018 10:01 AM »
I know that it is a really long shot but what if some kind of Martian matter gets somehow wedged in the landing legs and is carried back to Earth ?

Based on Falcon 9 landings the legs will be closed for all but the last few seconds of Earth EDL so, in theory this material could be released into the atmosphere on landing.

Offline Dave G

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #9 on: 01/14/2018 12:13 PM »
I know that it is a really long shot but what if some kind of Martian matter gets somehow wedged in the landing legs and is carried back to Earth ?

Based on Falcon 9 landings the legs will be closed for all but the last few seconds of Earth EDL so, in theory this material could be released into the atmosphere on landing.

Good point.

To be clear, I don't think any of this will end up being a major issue, but we shouldn't forget about it either.

Precautions should be taken, at least initially.

Offline ChrML

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #10 on: 01/16/2018 08:11 PM »
Elon seems to think Mars is just a dead rock, he stated so in the first Q&A in the 2016 vid. And tbh that is the most likely truth. There are other moons in our solar system far more likely to be habitable.

But initially until it can be proved, SpaceX most likely have to decontaminate both ways. There is no law forcing them to do so, but the least SpaceX wants to is to piss off NASA. And this is important for NASA.

Offline moreno7798

Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #11 on: 01/16/2018 10:20 PM »
Meh...

It seems to me that a quarantine in light of the fact that almost everyone (At NASA) agrees there is no life (any fear of microbes is kind of an admission of current life) on the surface of Mars would be pointless. More than anything else, it would be a mere appeasement for the planetary protection scientists. So if you quarantine, then the question would be, What are you quarantining? Sterile dirt? Or do you just want to waste money on a "perceived" safety procedure that really does nothing for safety?

You have to understand, the second the spaceship comes in contact with earth's atmosphere, let alone land "ANYWHERE" on earth, a quarantine is basically an exercise in futility. Made even more evident because of panspermia. It would be a major waste of time to have to quarantine a spaceship for that particular reason.

Rocks from deep space are falling in all the time - large, small, medium. They are everywhere on earth and they are coming from places even more dangerous than Mars - earth goes through several comet dust tails from deep space every so often as well. The point is, there's no point in quarantining what is technically un-quarantinable.

One last point - China, or some other nation, may have a sample returned from Mars before a BFR round-trip happens. How many negative results before we get rid of the red tape?
« Last Edit: 01/17/2018 10:09 PM by moreno7798 »

Offline CuddlyRocket

Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #12 on: 01/17/2018 06:47 PM »
But initially until it can be proved, SpaceX most likely have to decontaminate both ways.
You won't be able to prove there's no life on Mars for millennia, even with a thriving human colony there (which would probably make decontamination pointless anyway). There are places on Earth we haven't managed to prove lifeless yet! And Mars is a big, virtually unexplored place.

Quote
There is no law forcing them to do so, but the least SpaceX wants to is to piss off NASA. And this is important for NASA.
It's important to some people in NASA, principally scientists, and they've been allowed free-reign because it wasn't impinging on other people's aspirations etc. If and when it starts doing so, there will be push-back.

Online hkultala

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #13 on: 01/17/2018 07:54 PM »
I seriously doubt there’s anything that might need to be removed, there’s quite a lot of Mars material on Earth already.

What mars material are you talking about?

Offline ChrML

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #14 on: 01/17/2018 09:58 PM »
Sterile dirt? Or do you just want to waste money on a "perceived" safety procedure that really does nothing for safety?
First the scientists want to protect Mars from Earth. There are lots of earth organisms that could probably survive and form on mars. There are even organisms living deep in lava stone here on earth.

What the scientists fear is that if we 50 years from now find some organism on Mars, then the discussion would be if it really came from Earth with us and adapted to the environment. And that there never was life on mars until we came. Or if it's always been there. Then again, when we colonize mars there is probably no way to avoid contaminating mars.

The other way only if mars happens to have organisms. They might not be so friendly for us. Cause diseases etc that we might not be able to stop. Again, that assumes existing life on Mars.
« Last Edit: 01/17/2018 09:59 PM by ChrML »

Offline Oersted

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #15 on: 01/17/2018 10:19 PM »
I seriously doubt there’s anything that might need to be removed, there’s quite a lot of Mars material on Earth already.

What mars material are you talking about?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martian_meteorite

Offline QuantumG

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #16 on: 01/17/2018 10:22 PM »
What the scientists fear is that if we 50 years from now find some organism on Mars, then the discussion would be if it really came from Earth with us and adapted to the environment. And that there never was life on mars until we came. Or if it's always been there. Then again, when we colonize mars there is probably no way to avoid contaminating mars.

The other way only if mars happens to have organisms. They might not be so friendly for us. Cause diseases etc that we might not be able to stop. Again, that assumes existing life on Mars.

Hello weary traveller! How did you get to the 21st century from the 1950s? Tell us your amazing tale!

But seriously, this is such outdated nonsense. If we find organisms on Mars they'll either be unlike any life we've ever seen before (alien you might say) or they'll have similar biochemistry to known life and we'll investigate their position in the evolutionary history using genome analysis - like we've done thousands and thousands of times now.

As for some amazing superbug coming from Mars to hunt humans, it makes for (arguably) good fiction but is patently absurd to anyone with a basic understanding of microbiology.

Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline moreno7798

Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #17 on: 01/17/2018 10:24 PM »
Sterile dirt? Or do you just want to waste money on a "perceived" safety procedure that really does nothing for safety?
First the scientists want to protect Mars from Earth. There are lots of earth organisms that could probably survive and form on mars. There are even organisms living deep in lava stone here on earth.

What the scientists fear is that if we 50 years from now find some organism on Mars, then the discussion would be if it really came from Earth with us and adapted to the environment. And that there never was life on mars until we came. Or if it's always been there. Then again, when we colonize mars there is probably no way to avoid contaminating mars.

The other way only if mars happens to have organisms. They might not be so friendly for us. Cause diseases etc that we might not be able to stop. Again, that assumes existing life on Mars.

So basically you're saying NASA has been infesting Mars with earth microbes for over 3 decades. Or are you going to be so bold as to imply that every mission to Mars has been 100% purified and rid from microbes from earth - 100% impossible. And we're talking about the "better than everybody else" job NASA does decontaminating every Mars mission. What about the ones from Russia? Japan? Europe? India? Soon China? Again, it is pointless.

As I see it, the best we can do is reserve an area of Mars that would be inaccessible to anyone/anything so that it can be studied in a not so distant future to look for life. We have the technology and the know-how to differentiate between earth life and Martian life if we ever find life on Mars - even after a full colony has been established on Mars. In fact, we could do that right now on earth if we ever found biology that doesn't fit our own.
« Last Edit: 01/17/2018 11:25 PM by moreno7798 »

Offline moreno7798

Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #18 on: 01/17/2018 10:56 PM »
What the scientists fear is that if we 50 years from now find some organism on Mars, then the discussion would be if it really came from Earth with us and adapted to the environment. And that there never was life on mars until we came. Or if it's always been there. Then again, when we colonize mars there is probably no way to avoid contaminating mars.

The other way only if mars happens to have organisms. They might not be so friendly for us. Cause diseases etc that we might not be able to stop. Again, that assumes existing life on Mars.


As for some amazing superbug coming from Mars to hunt humans, it makes for (arguably) good fiction but is patently absurd to anyone with a basic understanding of microbiology.

I agree. I'm not a chemist or a biologist but I'd assume that any martian superbug seeking to do us harm would have to:

1.  ...have the same biology as human(earth) biology - very unlikely unless it evolved on earth.
2.  ...be able to interact with our biology. If it evolved with different biology, then to them humans might as well be dead rocks.
3.  ...want to feed on us. - Again, If it evolved with different biology, then it'd be like impala trying to feed on meat.

Offline QuantumG

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #19 on: 01/17/2018 11:06 PM »
I agree. I'm not a chemist or a biologist but I'd assume that any martian superbug seeking to do us harm would have to:

1.  ...have the same biology as human(earth) biology - very unlikely unless it evolved on earth.
2.  ...be able to interact with our biology. If it evolved with different biology, then to them humans might as well be dead rocks.
3.  ...want to feed on us. - Again, If it evolved with different biology, then it'd be like impala trying to feed on meat.

Or just simply be like any microbe taken from the desert and dropped in the ocean - out-competed in seconds by the locals. Microbes develop in particular niches and are in constant competition with other microbes. The idea that some introduced interloper is going to somehow instantly be top dog is silly.

And that's the most plausible scenario... the science fiction scenario is that somehow a Mars microbe is a human pathogen, how's that work? The vast vast vast vast (I could go on, Douglas Adams style) majority of microbes on Earth don't have any effect on us - you can inject them into your bloodstream and not have a problem - the minuscule number that are a problem for us have co-evolved with us and other animals on this planet. It's simply impossible for a microbe from Mars to have a deleterious effect on humans.

NASA's planetary protection position is simply junk science. It's outdated claptrap.

 
Jeff Bezos has billions to spend on rockets and can go at whatever pace he likes! Wow! What pace is he going at? Well... have you heard of Zeno's paradox?

Offline Vultur

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #20 on: 01/24/2018 04:41 AM »

The other way only if mars happens to have organisms. They might not be so friendly for us. Cause diseases etc that we might not be able to stop. Again, that assumes existing life on Mars.

Nah. Mars life would probably be killed by a human compatible environment. The metabolism and so on that's useful for being a chemosynthesizer in a sub-surface environment (any Mars life would probably have to be subsurface, both to have access to water and to survive high UV-C levels) aren't good preparation for surviving inside a human body. Miners in deep gold mines etc. don't worry about being infected with weird endolithic microbes, though those are known to exist and use our same basic biochemistry (RNA/DNA, protein

It's vaguely possible that Mars microbes or 'quasi life' [complex organic chemistry that doesn't really fit our definition of life] could cause allergic reactions or something, but contagious disease, no way. Contagious diseases are highly adapted to an environment that contains complex multi-cellular life to infect... Mars doesn't.

Offline SweetWater

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #21 on: 01/24/2018 11:10 AM »
Sterile dirt? Or do you just want to waste money on a "perceived" safety procedure that really does nothing for safety?
First the scientists want to protect Mars from Earth. There are lots of earth organisms that could probably survive and form on mars. There are even organisms living deep in lava stone here on earth.

What the scientists fear is that if we 50 years from now find some organism on Mars, then the discussion would be if it really came from Earth with us and adapted to the environment. And that there never was life on mars until we came. Or if it's always been there. Then again, when we colonize mars there is probably no way to avoid contaminating mars.

The other way only if mars happens to have organisms. They might not be so friendly for us. Cause diseases etc that we might not be able to stop. Again, that assumes existing life on Mars.

I think the issue here is you are talking about trying to prove not one but two negatives.

The first is that any organisms we might potentially find on Mars did NOT have origins on Earth. As others have noted, there has already been - admittedly very limited - traffic of material and potentially microbes between the two planets in the form of meteorites. If microbial life is found on Mars 50 years from now, it will be very difficult to prove that it did NOT have its origins on Earth, whether from an meteorite from 10,000 years ago, the Mars 2 probe which crashed in 1971 or any of the probes and landers since, or from the first ITS landing, whenever that might be.

The second negative you are talking about trying to prove is that the first astronauts returning from Mars to Earth do NOT carry any disease or other harmful agents (ex: something like prions) with them. As others have noted, the return journey will take months, a period of time which would exceed even the most stringent quarantine requirements for any known disease/pathogen. Trying to prove that said astronauts are NOT harboring some unknown disease or other agent would mean an indefinite quarantine.

Offline Vultur

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #22 on: 01/26/2018 06:18 AM »
If microbial life is found on Mars 50 years from now, it will be very difficult to prove that it did NOT have its origins on Earth, whether from an meteorite from 10,000 years ago, the Mars 2 probe which crashed in 1971 or any of the probes and landers since, or from the first ITS landing, whenever that might be.
Actually, it would be easily possible to tell if you had a sample of it.

If it doesn't have DNA/RNA, it's native.

If it does, but it doesn't fit on Earth's tree of life, it's either native or derived from meteor transfer very early in the solar system's history (before the most recent common ancestor of all current Earth life).

If it fits on Earth's tree of life, it's from Earth.

Offline jpo234

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #23 on: 01/26/2018 07:56 AM »
If it does, but it doesn't fit on Earth's tree of life, it's either native or derived from meteor transfer very early in the solar system's history (before the most recent common ancestor of all current Earth life).

Or it's even older: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia
« Last Edit: 01/26/2018 07:57 AM by jpo234 »
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Online speedevil

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #24 on: 01/26/2018 08:16 AM »

If it doesn't have DNA/RNA, it's native.

If it does, but it doesn't fit on Earth's tree of life, it's either native or derived from meteor transfer very early in the solar system's history (before the most recent common ancestor of all current Earth life).

'Native' DNA/RNA just isn't happening.
DNA/RNA is a very complex molecule, and there are many, many choices that are essentially random, but result in functionally identical molecules that vary significantly in all aspects.

As a rocketry analogy, it would not be at all surprising to find that other species developed chemical rockets that looked sort of like ours.
It would be very, very surprising indeed if they looked precisely like a Saturn V up to and including the paintjob.

Offline Vultur

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #25 on: 01/26/2018 08:28 AM »

If it doesn't have DNA/RNA, it's native.

If it does, but it doesn't fit on Earth's tree of life, it's either native or derived from meteor transfer very early in the solar system's history (before the most recent common ancestor of all current Earth life).

'Native' DNA/RNA just isn't happening.


Maybe, but I don't think we know enough to say that yet -- we don't know what the earliest stages of life on Earth were. A lot of abiogenesis hypotheses involve earlier self-replicating systems that were replaced by the DNA/RNA/protein system -- I've even seen it suggested that TNA (threose nucleic acid, a simpler nucleic acid) might have predated RNA.

So if the evolution from another system to our current one was advantageous here, it might have been advantageous elsewhere too. We don't really know that there are "equally good" other systems.

Offline Athrithalix

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #26 on: 01/26/2018 08:54 AM »
In terms of equally good other systems, we know of at least one. Biological molecules such as enzymes, nucleotides, and other proteins have a chirality, which means that they are one of two possible mirror images of that structure of atoms. Earth life all shares one chirality, as the opposite chirality is not compatible with our own. So even if our own forms of nucleaic acid turn out to be the only viable ones for life (which would surprise me), there are still at least two different forms for it to fit. Martian life found with DNA but opposing chirality would be really weird, it would be obviously not Earth originating, but also tell us a huge amount about how narrow the path is for biogenesis, but also that that narrow path is stunningly common enough and easily followed to generate life on two different planets within one solar system.

Offline Vultur

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #27 on: 01/26/2018 09:16 AM »
Yeah, reverse chirality is another possible variation.

I'm not saying independent origin of DNA/RNA is necessarily likely (I don't think we know enough about the early steps in the origin of life to say either way).

 I was just trying to cover all bases - my point was that even an independent origin of Earth-type biochemistry (DNA/RNA/protein) would be distinguishable from "recent" (post-Late Heavy Bombardment or thereabouts) Earth contamination, since its DNA sequence wouldn't fit on the Earth tree of life.


Offline Katana

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Re: BFS quarantine ?
« Reply #28 on: 01/26/2018 01:58 PM »
I agree. I'm not a chemist or a biologist but I'd assume that any martian superbug seeking to do us harm would have to:

1.  ...have the same biology as human(earth) biology - very unlikely unless it evolved on earth.
2.  ...be able to interact with our biology. If it evolved with different biology, then to them humans might as well be dead rocks.
3.  ...want to feed on us. - Again, If it evolved with different biology, then it'd be like impala trying to feed on meat.

Or just simply be like any microbe taken from the desert and dropped in the ocean - out-competed in seconds by the locals. Microbes develop in particular niches and are in constant competition with other microbes. The idea that some introduced interloper is going to somehow instantly be top dog is silly.

And that's the most plausible scenario... the science fiction scenario is that somehow a Mars microbe is a human pathogen, how's that work? The vast vast vast vast (I could go on, Douglas Adams style) majority of microbes on Earth don't have any effect on us - you can inject them into your bloodstream and not have a problem - the minuscule number that are a problem for us have co-evolved with us and other animals on this planet. It's simply impossible for a microbe from Mars to have a deleterious effect on humans.

NASA's planetary protection position is simply junk science. It's outdated claptrap.
Protests of public environmentalists may become bigger problem than NASA's planetary protection.
Compare to GM crops (food safty) and LHC accelerator ("hazard of artificial black hole").

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