Speaking about virus, everyone immediately thinks about Corona. Because corona virus has been the most distraught topic for everyone in the world. It’s unprecedented ramifications have brought even world’s most powerful nations on their knees. Even with the technological advances in medical and chemical science, we couldn’t find any cure as of now. The reason is organisms like viruses are the hidden enemies and the most resilient of all. We can’t see them with our naked eyes. Right now you could be having hundreds of viruses on your body.
There are billions of different virus species are on earth itself and The results of a new study suggest that at least 320,000 different viruses infect mammals. (Out of identified ones).
But what about outer space?
What does corona virus teach us about possible threats from the outer space?
Are there any life forms outside the earth?
We are not talking about some advanced alien civilisations but tiny single cellular micro organisms.
There could be the chance of having such micro organisms on other planets also.
Think about it this way.
How did life start on earth? We didn’t come directly as intelligent beings out of the blue.
It all started with a single cellular organisms. And in such horrible conditions which were impossible to believe.
Scientists believes that life on earth started in the minerals of rocks in the deep ocean volcanos. With volcanos spewing ash rich in some ingredients had been the bestowal for life and gradually life made it’s way out of the oceans and began to dominate the earth.
But that’s not it. Since life began on earth around 3.5 billion years ago earth has been in very harsh conditions. And any lifeforms that have emerged on earth had been wiped out 5 times. This is what scientists call five mass extinctions. Although Some life forms managed to hold their feet despite harsh conditions. specially Tardigrades
Tardigrades are such life forms found on earth which can survive even in space without any protection. They also survived total five mass extinctions.
So what if life has begun on some other planets of our solar system? At least in microscopic forms.
Scientists believes that there could be bacterial life forms stuck inside the martian rocks because mars was once bestowed with environment like earth. There are even evidence of patters on rocks abraded by the water flow.
NASA is planning to Bring Samples Back From Mars. Collecting samples from Mars and bringing them back to Earth is a historic undertaking that starts with the launch of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. That rover will collect samples and leave them ready for a future mission to retrieve and return to Earth.
But is it safe? No. Not at all.
Because mars samples could be carrying some microbes which can contaminate the earth and can become potential threat to life on earth as we know it. (and we can’t afford another outbreak.) Bringing samples direct to earth can pose a risk to public safety.
That’s why nasa has something called planetary protection.
Planetary protection is a guiding principle in the design of an interplanetary mission, aiming to prevent biological contamination of both the target celestial body and the Earth in the case of sample-return missions. Planetary protection reflects both the unknown nature of the space environment and the desire of the scientific community to preserve the pristine nature of celestial bodies until they can be studied in detail.
“There are two types of interplanetary contamination. Forward contamination is the transfer of viable organisms from Earth to another celestial body. Back contamination is the transfer of extraterrestrial organisms, if such exist, back to the Earth’s biosphere.” -NASA
Nasa also have five planet categories based on their potentials risk for contamination of life.
Category I planets does not need to have direct interest for understanding the process of chemical evolution or the origin of life.
For e.g. Mercury
Category II is where there is only a remote chance that contamination carried by a spacecraft could jeopardize future exploration”
For e.g Astroids and comets.
Category III/IV is where there is a significant chance that contamination carried by a spacecraft could jeopardize future exploration.” We define “significant chance” as “the presence of niches (places where terrestrial microorganisms could proliferate) and the likelihood of transfer to those places.”
For eg: Mars, Titan, Europa (Earth also comes in this category)
Category V is Unrestricted Category. Earth-return missions from bodies deemed by scientific opinion to have no indigenous life forms.It includes dead and barren planets.
For e.g. Moon
Scientists have also discovered oceans of methane on one of Saturn’s moon titan – A key component for life. Titan even has a water ice on its surface.
Due to these reasons Nasa sacrificed its Cassini spacecraft after 20 years of its mission. Forcefully made it to plunge into the Saturn’s enormous gravity in order to destroy it. Because it was too dangerous to let it wander aimlessly. It might have crashed into one of the moons in the Saturn system, Where life might be hiding. This could alter the possible biological destiny of titan or other moons of Saturn.
The bottom line is no matter how much nuclear weapons or supersonic missiles we have. The real threat is always hidden, which we can’t see with our naked eyes. Wherever this threat comes from we ought to be keep our eyes on and keep our safety precautions on every time.
Let us know what do you think about potential threats of viruses and bacterias from outerspace in the comment box below.