Is your spacecraft contaminating the universe?

An article at Space.Com discusses a new push to make sure that spacecraft do not inadvertently contaminate the places they are visiting (e.g., Mars).  What microbes are on space vehicles and how to make sure the parts that are sent to other planets are “clean” or “sterile” is an interesting and active area of research.  We have written about this issue here on microBEnet in the past and this is part of the reasoning behind our Project MERCCURI.  More about that another time.  Just thought some might be interested in this story on Space.Com about this issue.


Today’s spacecraft feature sensitive gear that may not be able to withstand the extreme heat treatment that sterilized previous Red Planet explorers such as NASA’s Viking landers, said Penelope Boston.

Source: Earth Germs on Spacecraft: A Push for New Protections

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Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. My lab is in the UC Davis Genome Center and I hold appointments in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis (see my lab site here which has more information on lab activities).  In addition to research, I am heavily involved in the Open Access publishing and Open Science movements.