Science

Scientists warn of possible alien invasion

With the era of space exploration comes a new risk: the alien invasion. But it will probably not be as you imagine or as Hollywood has shown for decades, but rather in the form of microbiological contamination.

Researcher Anthony Ricciardi, from McGill University in Canada, published an article in the scientific journal BioScience, in which he and his colleagues describe the dangers these organisms pose to Earth’s biosecurity and propose an approach to address them. “Biological invasions are a global biosecurity problem that requires rigorous cross-border solutions,” he said.

According to him, this threat could arise sooner than previously thought, despite precautionary measures taken by space agencies, such as “clean rooms” that isolate bacterial strains that adhere to spacecraft and are resistant to radiation. extreme ionizers, desiccation and disinfectants.

Some of the biggest risks, according to the researchers, are the rise of private space exploration companies, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which aims to send the first manned mission to Mars in the next few years.

“With the increase in space missions, including those to bring samples back to Earth, it is crucial to reduce the risks of biological contamination in both directions,” the researcher told Live Science.

“We can speculate on the types of organisms that could be found if astrobiologists found life. The most plausible life forms would be microbial and would probably look like bacteria, “he explained.

Planets have always exchanged materials via meteorites, but human exploration of space could accelerate pollution, said Jennifer Wadsworth of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland, who was not involved in the study.

“The line between exploration and conservation is thin. One should not be abandoned at the expense of the other, but both should be carefully considered, ”said Mr. Wadsworth.

Strengthened security protocols

Although the researchers consider that the risk of interplanetary contamination is low, they warn that care must be taken in this matter, given the negative effects that invasive species have had on Earth itself.

In this sense, Ricciardi believes that it is necessary to strengthen the collaboration between astrobiologists who investigate extraterrestrial life and biologists who study invasive species on Earth. “It would enhance existing international protocols for planetary biosecurity, both for Earth and for extraterrestrial bodies that may contain life,” he said.

According to the researcher, portable real-time DNA sequencing technologies, combined with databases of known organic pollutants, could allow rapid responses.

“The protocols for early detection, risk assessment, rapid response and containment procedures currently in use for invasive species on Earth could be adapted to deal with potential extraterrestrial contaminants,” he explained.

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