Could Earth Germs Colonize Mars?
Since its daredevil landing on Mars last summer, NASAâ€™s Curiosity rover has been avidly exploring its new home in Gale Crater. But thereâ€™s been one worry that several people have voiced since Curiosity launched â€” what if the rover contaminates the surface of Mars with Earth life?
Mars and Earth are very different places. Earthâ€™s butterscotchy little brother is a dry and gelid little world. Among its other hazards are surface pressures approaching 1000 times lower than at Earthâ€™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.