We may unknowingly contaminate Mars and any other world we are exploring in the future with microorganisms on Earth. As part of the MARSBOx experiment, scientists from NASA and the German Aerospace Center launched several fungal and bacterial organisms into the stratosphere in 2019. The stratosphere is the second major layer of the earth’s atmosphere above the ozone layer. Its conditions are very similar to those of the red planet. It is an ideal place to send samples to determine whether it can survive on Mars. Now, the scientists have published a paper about their discovery, discussing how the spores of black mold survived the trip.
To be precise, this microorganism can only exist on the surface of Mars temporarily, but the researchers found that the spores can be revived after returning to their hometown.The group placed fungal spores Aspergillus niger with Salix salix, Staphylococcus aureus head with Buttiauxella sp. MASE-IM-9 Bacterial cells in MARSBOx (or microorganisms in the atmosphere, used for radiation, survival and biological outcome experiments) in aluminum containers. There are two sample layers in the container, the bottom layer is shielded to prevent radiation, so NASA can separate radiation effects from other environmental conditions. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) balloon transports the container to the stratosphere, where the stratospheric sample is subjected to Martian-like conditions, and exposure to ultraviolet radiation is more than 1
what is that Aspergillus niger What does surviving mean for space travel? As Katharina Siems, a member of the German Aerospace Center said:
“With the long-term mission to manned Mars, we need to know how human-related microbes will survive on the red planet, because some microbes may pose health risks to astronauts. In addition, some microbes may be ineffective for space exploration. They may help us to produce food and supplies independently of the planet, which is vital for people far from home.”
Last year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) updated its policy to reflect its firmer commitment to prevent human contamination of the Moon and Mars. The agency wants to ensure that it does not unknowingly bring life on Earth or other pollutants to other worlds, because this may impair the chance of finding extraterrestrial life. Taking them home from other worlds may also have a negative impact on our environment. Siems explained that experiments like the MARSBOx mission “are a very important way to help us explore all the effects of space travel on microbial life, and how we can use this knowledge for amazing space discoveries.”