This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.
I am rewatching the Andromeda Strain where a crashed satellite (!) infects humanity with a space bug. And I am also familiar with how NASA took precautions to prevent possible moon bugs from infecting humanity after the Apollo astronauts returned from the moon, and how they are doing their best to prevent Earth bugs from contaminating mars when they send landers there.
One thing that’s often left out when this is discussed is perhaps the most obvious question: If there are space bugs, why would they be adapted to human and Earth biology? How could they possibly infect us if they evolved from a different origin and in a different environment?
The answer is that they almost certainly can’t if they evolved from a different origin and a different environment. There is a small chance they did evolve from the same origin – if there is something to the panspermia idea, although it’s difficult to see that they would be able to infect us since they most likely co-evolved with a very different environment from ours and with very different organisms to us. Another possibility is that Earth bugs got flung into space when a meteor hit, and miraculously survived, reproduced (without host organisms?), changed, and are still able to infect humans or Earth organisms.
There are a lot of ifs here, and it seems unlikely bordering on impossible that it could happen. Of course, NASA wants to take precautions, and they wanted to be seen as taking it seriously, which is why they quarantined the Apollo astronauts.
It makes more sense to decontaminate Earth crafts before they land on Mars and other planets. If there is native life on Mars, we don’t want it mixed in with Earth bugs and we don’t want to have Earth bugs take over the environment – even if that too is very unlikely. There is also a very small chance that Earth bugs arrived on Mars due to a meteor impact, or the other way around, and Mars bugs are still similar to Earth bugs, so it’s good to not have them mixed up.Read More