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27 votes

Is there any demonstrated or even proposed technology that can sterilize a spacecraft with 100% certainty and yet leave it electronically functional?

Absolute 100% sterilization is impossible. There's always a tiny chance that some microbe lands on a component during manufacturing, gets entombed inside the packaging, and therefore is unreachable ...
DrSheldon's user avatar
  • 48k
20 votes

Why do we worry about contaminating some solar bodies but not others?

The deciding factor is if the solar body has a chance of harboring life (or having done so in the past). Scientists don't want to run the risk of false positives: detecting life on another planet, ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
17 votes

Is there any demonstrated or even proposed technology that can sterilize a spacecraft with 100% certainty and yet leave it electronically functional?

No, it is not possible to make it 100% sterile. Especially if you consider self-replication as only requirement to classify something as life (It's complicated. See obligatory xkcd reference) Few ...
Matija Nalis's user avatar
14 votes
Accepted

Why would the Apollo Lunar Module pressure dump (to space?) valve have a bacterial filter?

It's one of several factors to prevent Earth microorganisms from contaminating the moon. The Apollo Program Summary Report states 8.5.2.1 Lunar-surface contamination.- Nations involved in the ...
DrSheldon's user avatar
  • 48k
11 votes

Who decided that a <1 in 10,000 probability of contaminating the europan ocean by a viable Earth microorganism was legally and ethically sufficient?

I'll start with what COSPAR wrote in 1964, emphasis mine: COSPAR "accepts, as tentatively recommended interim objectives, a sterilization level such that the probability of a single viable ...
David Hammen's user avatar
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10 votes
Accepted

Life on Mars: How do we know it is not from Earth?

One tool in the astrobiology toolbox is chirality, the property that many chemical compounds exist as "left-handed" and "right-handed" mirror images. These have the exact same ...
SE - stop firing the good guys's user avatar
10 votes
Accepted

Why do we worry about contaminating some solar bodies but not others?

Early Mars probes were heavily sterilized. Further studies have shown that Mars's surface isn't habitable, at least not in most areas, and thus a low risk approach has been developed, where certain ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
7 votes
Accepted

Are not crash landings on Mars violating the Planetary Protection rules?

No. If there is a crash landing, then the Planetary Protection Officer (ESA's in the case of Schiaparelli) documents the crash location and the organic and biological material that was likely ...
Mark Adler's user avatar
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5 votes

Will transit time render Mars disease free?

Not completely, for a number of reasons, but in theory there should be less disease than on Earth. Some diseases last for a very long time, like AIDS. Things like the flu will have a really hard ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
5 votes
Accepted

Why were blood and hair follicles from 25 people put on the Moon?

Nova Spivack explained in a tweet: We sent enough DNA to regenerate life on Earth, if necessary. Although it would require more advanced biotech than we have to do that. At least our DNA is ...
amI's user avatar
  • 720
5 votes

How would a manned Mars mission keep from contaminating Mars?

While measures would be taken to limit the contamination for scientific investigation reasons, it is generally accepted that 100% containment would be impossible. In fact, when the planetary ...
Mark Adler's user avatar
  • 58.2k
4 votes
Accepted

What are the sanctions to prevent Mars being polluted with human corpses?

Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty requires parties to the Treaty to conduct their activities so as to avoid "harmful contamination" of celestial bodies, which would include Mars. This obligation ...
SpaceLawyer's user avatar
  • 1,428
3 votes

Are any space agencies working on an (essentially) 100% reliable sterilization technique for spacecraft bound for subsurface ocean worlds?

“100% reliable” may be unattainable, but “Dang close” is already routine in hospitals. Dry heat sterilization is possible, but requires long exposure times which can damage many materials. Etylene ...
Woody's user avatar
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3 votes
Accepted

Why send tardigrades to the moon if we have actively avoided contaminating other worlds?

The care which avoiding contamination space agencies take is generally proportional to the probability they assess of there being native life. Some of Saturn's moons are considered possible candidates ...
Oscar Smith's user avatar
3 votes
Accepted

Chang'e- 4 safeguards to biological Contamination on the moon?

@Uwe answered my question The conditions on the Moon are the safeguard against anything biological from Earth reproducing itself outside a lander. Vacuum, temperature, lack of water, intensive UV ...
Karlomanio's user avatar
2 votes

Life on Mars: How do we know it is not from Earth?

One key aspect not mentioned so far is the possibility of contamination of Mars with Earth life that is not due to a failure of planetary protection. Carl Sagan was one of the first to suggest the ...
Vince 49's user avatar
  • 2,611
2 votes

Life on Mars: How do we know it is not from Earth?

First of all, some effort is made to prevent contamination by earth organisms for precisely this reason, but it is not perfect. But, if scientists do detect life it will probably be possible to tell ...
Mark Foskey's user avatar
2 votes

Are not crash landings on Mars violating the Planetary Protection rules?

The main concern is a lander (looking for life on Mars) bringing life to Mars and its instruments then detecting that life in a false positive. A crash landing makes that a non-issue: the instruments ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
2 votes
Accepted

Is Curiosity allowed to investigate the subsurface of the "clay unit " near Mount Sharp?

After the fact, we now know that Curiosity is allowed to investigate the clay unit. The first clay sample was taken in April 2019 Later samples have verified findings about water in the Gale crater, ...
SE - stop firing the good guys's user avatar
2 votes
Accepted

Probable future tech to sterilize an EVA suit as it is being worn

Vacuum is a harsh environment, so having the suit exposed to it should get rid of most bacteria. It is not a bulletproof method though, as confirmed by a famous case. Another good opportunity is to ...
SE - stop firing the good guys's user avatar
2 votes

Could any life from Earth survive in Enceladus' oceans?

There actually just was a scishow video about this, where they said, that a specific kind of bacteria can survive in a simulated Enceladus ocean in the lab.
Hans's user avatar
  • 3,566
2 votes

Could any life from Earth survive in Enceladus' oceans?

A recent and open access paper in Nature Biological methane production under putative Enceladus-like conditions describes an in-depth analysis of sources of energy in Enceladus' ocean and suggests ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k

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