The discovery of liquid water on some planetary bodies could be a sign that the Earth is not the only one to harbor life. But if micro-organisms from far away reached us, would we be immune? The answer is most likely not. Indeed, while having an immune system that protects us from a vast variety of pathogens sounds like an agreeable thing to have, the interaction between it and ET turns out to be more problematic than you might think.
I live for the day when I see humans set foot on a planet other than Earth. This is the type of long-term project that makes astronomers and entrepreneur’s dream.
Research is multiplying in the quest for a planet that could harbor life in any form, Europa, moon of Jupiter, and Enceladus, moon of Saturn, already offer interesting leads. These satellites could indeed satisfy one of the essential conditions for life developing thanks to the presence, still under investigation, of liquid water on their surface. Water hides under the surface of Mars, the neighboring planet on which humans have the ambition to go. However, before such a breakthrough takes place, NASA and space exploration companies such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are promoting commercial space travel and exploring other planets, accompanied by the sending of long-range probes to recover samples.
I read the report issued by NASA’s Planetary Science Division in August 2016 with great interest. It describes several scenarios exploring Europa, Enceladus and Mars. And it is fascinating to imagine the first human footsteps on another planet; to see humans set foot on a planet other than Earth is truly an exciting idea!
However, simulations of these missions soon showed that such a breakthrough would also pose profound questions related to quarantine issues and to planetary protection.
If there is indeed water elsewhere than on Earth, life will have followed. What if, in samples, we introduced this life on Earth? This is the question that British scientists, authors of a study published in the journal Microorganisms, have asked themselves.