Coronavirus —

The measures to protect the terrestrial environment should be considered when bringing in Martian rocks, said Rafael Navarro, from the UNAM CN.

Future space missions to Mars could promote an exchange of viruses or bacteria Between the red planet and the Earth, when carrying microorganisms from inside the ships, warned the astrobiologist Rafael Navarro González, from the Institute of Nuclear Sciences (ICN) of UNAM.

Currently these microorganisms cannot subsist because Mars conditions are inaccessibleBut in the future, if the Martian environment changed by releasing greenhouse gases there, they could enter biological activity and live, warned the also co-investigator of NASA’s Curiosity robotic mission, according to a UNAM statement.

Similarly, when humans travel to the red planet and bring rocks, these could be contaminated with microorganisms, which opens the possibility that pathogenic viruses or bacteria, unknown to us, that could cause epidemics or pandemics such as the one we are currently experiencing, come to Earth, he stressed.

By participating in “El Aleph. Art and Science Festival. The Possibilities of Life: Covid-19 and its Effects ”, Navarro pointed out that the Planetary Protection Panel, made up of researchers from all over the world, is considering what should be the measures to protect the terrestrial environment when Martian rocks are brought in.

“It is possible that life existed on Mars and we do not know if it could have a common origin to that of Earth, or if they could be related by the exchange of rocks and meteorites.”

If life were found there, the first thing you would have to study is if its origin is independent from ours, or if it is complementary, coming from the same common ancestor. “Still, the possibility of producing pandemics with Martian organisms is high, and precautions should be taken,” he said.

Navarro considered that the exchange of microorganisms between Mars and Earth may have already occurred in the past, since life in both may have coexisted about four billion years ago, when planets appeared.

We believe that were able to exchange viruses and bacteria for collisions between asteroids and comets, contaminated rocks that eventually reached the surface of both planets, he detailed.

Experiments of the International Space Station have been carried out removing contaminated rocks from Earth into space, and cyanobacteria and fungi have been shown can live up to a year and a half in extreme conditions of the interstellar medium, with very low temperatures and high radiation levels; Furthermore, they can be protected by rock structures.

Finally, the specialist reiterated that the Earth has had import of Martian rocks contaminated with microorganisms Throughout its history, “but we have no evidence that there have been catastrophes in our biosphere due to its arrival.”