As Planetary Protection Officer, her Job is to Keep Mars Clean. And that’s not easy!
Dr. Conley’s job is to protect other planets from Earth and since Mars is currently being visited by our spacecraft – it tops the list. Basically we have been invading Mars since November 1971 ever since the Soviet Mars 2 Lander crashed. And no doubt that some earth borne bacteria was released! Basically it analogous to Chinese Freighter bring invasive species to our waters.
As Planetary Protection Officer, Dr. Conley’s job is to Keep Mars Clean. As she puts it, “If we’re going to look for life on Mars, it would be really kind of lame to bring Earth life and find that instead.” But NASA scientists are certain the the microbes that have hitchhiked from Earth are still around. Because even with the inhospitable environment found on Mars which is cold, dry and bombarded by ultraviolet light — it takes time for them to die off. But it is entirely possible that some bacteria and residual microbes could actually not only survive but thrive.
NASA’s has even designated areas that are off limit and have prohibited the Opportunity and Curiosity from visiting what are known as “special regions” — places that Earth bacteria might happily call home. At launch of Curiosity, NASA scientists estimate that there were probably 20,000 to 40,000 heat-resistant bacterial spores onboard and perhaps 100 or 1,000 times more microbes not counted.
And what happens with astronauts, carrying a slew of Earth microbes, arrive to colonize Mars?
“We actually do need to be careful,” Dr. Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said, adding, “We do need to watch what we’re doing, because there could be life on Mars.”