Could Earth Germs Colonize Mars?
Since its daredevil landing on Mars last summer, NASA’s Curiosity rover has been avidly exploring its new home in Gale Crater. But there’s been one worry that several people have voiced since Curiosity launched — what if the rover contaminates the surface of Mars with Earth life?
Mars and Earth are very different places. Earth’s butterscotchy little brother is a dry and gelid little world. Among its other hazards are surface pressures approaching 1000 times lower than at Earth’s sea level, temperatures which can be low enough to freeze carbon dioxide, and practically no oxygen. Full of curiosity of their own, Wayne Nicholson and Andrew Schuerger, a pair of microbiologists based at the University of Florida, decided to see if certain Earth microbes could take some punishment.