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"Tardigrades on the moon are not good"

O On April 11, 2019, the Israeli SpaceIL Company crashed Beresheet (Hebrew for "At the Beginning") on the Moon. The payload of Beresheet which was provided by the nonprofit Arch Mission Foundation, was intended to serve as information for the Earth. It contained a DVD with 30 million pages of human knowledge and 60,000 etched pages that do not require a computer to read, keys for 5,000 languages ​​and DNA samples of 25 people. According to Nova Spivack, chairman of the Arch Mission Foundation, this lunar-parked information library could be enough to "regenerate humanity" in the event of a disaster.

Many may find Arch's mission imaginative, others profound. Only a few raised objections. After all, it was her money. Creative people have certainly done silly things. Pity about the crash.

But then on August 7, it came out that Beresheet carried an extra load, about 1

0,000 microscopic animals called Tardigraden, on a postage stamp-sized piece of tape. These animals, known to the amateur microscopists as "water bears" or "moss weasels", have the ability to survive dehydration for years in a dormant state and also to be highly resistant to radiation damage. Now they were on the moon.

First, reporters reported the story with a light touch. "Thousands of Tardigrads are stranded on the moon after a lander accident," Mindy Weisberger wrote playfully in LiveScience . "After the crash, water bears cling to the moon," the BBC reported. "There's definitely some great source material for a sci-fi horror movie, The moose pig's attack from the moon, we'd see it."

But unfortunately, the fun did not last. "Tardigrades on the Moon are not good," said astronomer Monica Vidaurri of Goddard in a series of tweets on August 10. She continued (breaks between tweets omitted):

It's not cute. It is the result of a large gap in accountability for the protection and ethics of the planets between public and private science, and we have no idea what can happen as a result. This means that the private sector can continue as it wishes. This means that they do not respond to a protection / ethics office. And the fact that politically nothing is happening and the decontamination standards have STILL NOT been updated is unimaginably dangerous. And if you're thinking, "Sweet, we've made lunar beings!", Then stop. Think carefully. WE have done something on ANOTHER WORLD that we do not fully understand. It has an environment, even if we consider it "barren" for a life on earth. , ,

They show excitement over the long history of forcing OUR values, systems, and in this case sentient beings, to another world. That is not our right and it is not our job. If we continue with this mentality, the premise is the same even if we removed the word "colonization". It is colonialism. It is imperialism.

J & # 39; Accuse!

Other alleged planetary protectionists influenced a greater degree of sobriety, but joined the Inquisition by claiming that the crime committed in L "Affair Tardigrade not only threatened the Moon research, astrobiology and paleontology, but the whole structure of international law.

These claims are of considerable clinical interest, so let's take a moment to examine them.

The charge of planetary protectionists is the assertion that delivering a milligram of dormant tardigrades to the moon is a "harmful contamination" to another world, prohibited by the 1967 space deal. They may have survived the crash and may even re-dive for several years on the moon in dormant, dormant form They can not be met there bolisieren, since there is no liquid id water on the lunar surface. So, until someone goes there and collects them and takes them to a science lab, they're just so much dust.

In addition, the Beresheet mission was hardly the first time anyone had delivered microorganisms to the moon. In fact, the Apollo missions did not leave a milligram, but kilograms of living microbes on the moon in sacks of human excrement. This was a wise thing, as the astronauts, by leaving waste behind, could return with more lunar rocks worth a lot more on earth than dung. But it would not matter if they did not, because as soon as the astronauts opened the door of the Lunar Module, millions of microbes were released onto the lunar surface, millions of more spacesuited flights and billions more were sent back down after the lunar module Orbit left moon modules are finally crashed on the moon. Even if these releases could have been hindered by technical solutions, it would still have been impossible to perform the Apollo missions under the Planetary Guidelines because it could never be guaranteed that the lunar module would not crash. An event that would have released microbes in the whole landscape.

Monica Grady, a leading astrobiologist at the British Open University in Milton Keynes, acknowledged this story, but commented: "One could say [planetary protection] was broken in 1969. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were there, we did Clarified how we should receive these planetary bodies.

"I do not think anyone would have been allowed to spread dehydrated tardigrades over the surface of the moon. So it's not a good thing.

More consciously or less consciously, the Apollo waste was dehydrated and effectively sterilized by the lunar environment within hours of leaving, and the missions would have been impossible without accepting such temporary releases. "not a good thing," but it's not that Tardigrads were sent to the moon, so no one "has permission" to do so.

If you can not send tardigrades to the moon, you can They also do not send people to the moon.

There are also some deeper problems here: Who gave the moon to astrobiologists? To give the astrobiologists the moon is like ichthyologists to give the stratosphere.

But what about Mars? In contrast to the moon, the red planet is indeed of considerable legitimate interest to astrobiology, while the lunar surface combination of daytime temperatures of 127 G Celsius and hard vacuum would qualify it as a superb laboratory autoclave that completely eliminates any viable microbial life, there are no such prohibited conditions on Mars. In addition, early Mars was different from the cold, dry, and very thin-skinned conditions that currently prevail, warm and humid with a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere, making it a near-Earth at the time life first appeared here Gemini made. Life on Mars could have developed, and even if it could not survive on the surface, it might have left fossils behind and could even persist in underground hydrothermally heated reservoirs. Would science not help ban people from Mars?

No. Fossil hunting on Earth requires long stretches of unexplored terrain, heavy work with pickaxes, and fine work to peel off layers of sedimentary rocks to reveal the remains of life trapped within. In order to find and characterize the existing life on Mars, rigs have to be built, hundreds of meters of which are explored and water sampled. Subsequently, they must undergo biological tests and biochemical tests in a laboratory. All of these operations are light-years beyond the capabilities of robot vans. The objection, if we send people to Mars, we will not know if the life we ​​find there is native or something we have brought with us is nonsense. If it is native life, it has left fossils or other biomarkers to prove its existence on Mars before our arrival. So we know that there was life on earth before people showed up here. To believe otherwise is to agree with the creationists, who argue that fossils do not prove the existence of life on earth before humans, because God could have created the planet with trapped fossils. This is not science.

We do not have to wait until human missions become feasible for planetary protectionism to damage Mars exploration, but do so already. In 2015, the Rover Curiosity which was sent to Mars for US taxpayers at a cost of over $ 2 billion, was prevented from investigating nearby locations by considerations of planetary protection which it seemed that subterranean water seeped to the surface. These could possibly have contained microbes or remnants of microbes. NASA's planned Mars pattern return mission has been enormously complex, with several autonomous rendezvous and docking operations in space included in the mission plan to meet the planetary protection requirements. This not only includes "protecting" the surface of Mars from (impossible) contamination by microbes transported from Earth, but also protecting the earth from (impossible) microbes living on the surface of Mars (which, if they existed, would have come here long ago) Many of the 500 kg naturally ejected Martian rocks that arrive here each year are ridden on their own legs.) As a result, sample return has been transformed from a mission to a vision. In fact, NASA has not sent any life-tracking experiment to Mars since 1976 because of the burdens imposed by missionary design's requirements of planetary protection.

So, we're spending billions for a robotic planetary exploration program and tens of billions for a manned space program as these programs are subject to planetary protection restrictions that prevent them from achieving their goals – limitations whose absurdity is the propensity of their advocates to fanatically demand their enforcement even in a self-sterilizing environment like the Earth's moon.

But there is a bigger question. It's not just who gave the moon to astrobiologists, but who gave the universe to professional scientists. Humans do not exist to serve scientific research. Scientific research serves humanity. We've learned a lot of science from the settlement of America, but that's not why we did it. We're going to be gaining vast new knowledge by becoming a space species, but that's not why we should do it. We should do it to establish new branches of human civilization that will enrich human history in the future as much as the human colonization of the earth has greatly enriched them, compared to what would be if we were in our original homeland in Kenya Grabenbruch would have remained. We will create new nations, with new languages, literatures, inventions, traditions and heroes, on new worlds filled with wonders to discover, but also with stories waiting to be made but enriched she fabulous. Their settlement is not an "imperialism" but a construction. Man is not a vermin. We are creators, not destroyers. A living world is better than a dead world. A world of thinking beings is better than a world without them. We are not the enemies of life and thought, we are their avant-garde. It is our place to continue the work of creation. If we can, we should not only bring life to Mars, but bring Mars to life.

I think we will do it. And if so, no one will be able to look at our work and not feel proud to be human.

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