THE CHANCE of alien organisms invading Earth is rising due to increased space exploration, according to a new study.
Scientists are claiming that human spacecraft could unknowingly pick up alien organisms from another planet and bring them back to Earth.
The theory is based on humanity’s history of accidentally moving creatures around Earth and introducing invasive species to habitats were they kill native species.
An example of this is the pesky brown marmorated stink bug that is thought to have arrived in the US on shipping crates from Eastern Asia.
A new study published in the journal BioScience, suggests that the same thing could happen with alien species or humans may even contaminate other planets with creatures from Earth.
The researchers state in their article: “As plans for space exploration and commercial use expand rapidly, biosecurity measures and risk assessments that inform them must adapt.
“Sophisticated protocols are required to prevent biological contamination of extraterrestrial environments from Earth and vice versa.”
The scientists are worried that the risk of biological contamination isn’t being considered enough when space missions are planned.
They wrote: “Protocols for early detection, hazard assessment, rapid response, and containment procedures currently employed for invasive species on Earth could be adapted for dealing with potential extraterrestrial contaminants on spacecraft or on biological material intentionally transported to Earth for analysis.”
Despite their concerns, the experts do think the risk of alien organisms contaminating Earth is still very low.
The harsh conditions of space travel would likely make it very difficult for an organism to survive the journey from another planet all the way back to Earth.
However, they can’t fully rule out small robust alien organisms that go unnoticed on a spacecraft.
Lead author Anthony Ricciardi, a professor of invasion biology at McGill University in Montreal, told Live Science: “We can only speculate on what kinds of organisms might be encountered if astrobiologists were to find life.
“The most plausible life-forms would be microbial and probably resemble bacteria.”
The researchers also made reference to the Israeli Beresheet spacecraft that crashed into the Moon with thousands or microscopic creatures called tardigrades onboard.
These microscopic animals can survive in very extreme conditions but studies suggest the creatures wouldn’t have survived the 2019 crash.
The Beresheet incident is a good example of how biological spills can happen and what space explorers need to watch out for in the future.
The study does acknowledge that space agencies are aware of contamination risks but think this new age of space exploration requires even more preventative measures.
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