The moon is littered with human artifacts, remnants of previous missions. For example, there are more than 100 objects in the Sea of Silence, which includes shovels, rakes, TV cameras, a plaque, human trash and more. International agreements require government agencies to be careful to thoroughly sterilize everything that enters into space or into another world to prevent contamination of pristine worlds.
Unfortunately, due to the crash of an Israeli lander in April, it is possible that an Earth organism has contaminated the Moon: dehydrated tardigrades, the microscopic animals commonly referred to as "water bears." Such contamination could adversely affect the future of astronomical archaeologists or astrobiologists who work on the moon.
Waterbears are known for their resilience and ability to survive in harsh conditions that are deadly to other life forms, body and dull legs.
The spaceship was to be the first private spaceship to land on the Moon and land in the Sea of Serenity. It was supposed to deposit a digital time capsule that included a "starter guide" for humanity: DNA samples, thousands of books in a DVD-sized digital nickel archive containing textbooks and water bears. When the spaceship crashed, Nova Spivack was the founder The Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose goal it is to "make a backup of planet Earth," wondered if it had just littered the moon's surface with water bears.
"The first 24 hours were just shocking," Spivack told Wired. "We expected it to be successful. We knew there were risks, but we did not think the risks were that significant. "
According to Spivack, the purpose of storing the digital archive on the Moon is to preserve the heritage and biology of humanity in case something goes seriously wrong.
"Our job as a harsh backup of this planet is to ensure that we protect our heritage ̵
But what happens if this mission does not work? According to Wired, it is still unknown whether the digital archives, DNA samples or tardigrades are intact. However, when it comes to tardigrades, there is little cause for concern. Because they are dehydrated, they would need to be returned to Earth for rehydration.
This is not the first archive sent to space. The Arch Mission Foundation sent their first in the glove division of Elon Musk's Tesla when he launched his $ 100,000 Tesla Roadster in the 2018 SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. SpaceX has never clarified whether the car was sterilized before it was sent into space, although experts believe that this is not the case.
These types of private missions create the urgency for Earth researchers to conserve lunar debris and examine how debris has changed over the years.
"We want the current contamination, not the introduction of new contaminants", Mark Lupisella, Head of Exploration Research and Development at the Goddard Space Flight Center, said last month to Salon.
Asked if the contaminants – including the water bears – negatively impacted the lunar surface, Lupisella said that NASA was concerned, but this was not a priority.
"It's not very much in the foreground, but I've had a series of conversations with people trying to do more on this front," he told Salon.