Though the idea of ‘infecting’ Mars with our germs is nothing new, one microbiologist believes the next Mars rover may have a higher chance of becoming a microbe lifeboat. Andrew C. Schuerger’s tests on models of the Mars Science Laboratory’s (known as “Curiosity”) wheels found that the novel landing maneuvers of the rover could increase the chances of contaminating Mars with bacteria than any previous surface mission.
What’s the Big Idea?
It’s unlikely that single-celled organisms will set up camp and colonize Mars before we do. Schuerger points out that should any bacteria survive the sterilization processes before Curiosity’s launch and the vacuum (and freezing cold) of space for 10 months, the long-term microbe survival rate is pretty grim. Mars, after all, is humming with radiation and bathed in bacterial-killing ultraviolet light.