The space police there. And it does not only protect the earth

  Космическая полиция существует. И защищает она не только Землю

When you hear the expression "space police," imagine the Hollywood sci-fi film. The reality is not that far from the film.

The so-called space security is part of the International Space Research Commission (COSPAR), established under the International Council for Science. It was his subjection in space research, the concept of planetary quarantine. For compliance only look at the police, rusjev reports.

In a recent interview with biologist Natalia Novikova told me that before the space of the Russian-European mission "Eczemas-2020" is sent to space, she should be checked for sterility. This is done with all instruments of the apparatus, to exclude man-made panspermia – that is to enter the life forms of the earth on other planets. The sterilization process is very annoying, strict requirements apply to all staff involved in the work.

According to Gerhard Kminek, who until recently led the expert group in the field of planetary protection COSPAR, as someone from personnel working with the spacecraft, becomes ill and becomes a source of infection, it is temporarily excluded from work. Plus the unit itself contains and tested in a special "clean" room.

Bi-bi-si has spoken with the successor of Cineca, Athena Coustenis, the current head of the Commission on planetary protection based on COSPAR. Astrophysicists talked about which planet to protect and what, and why, you should first send space missile robots and then people.

Athena Coustenis: We send the Rover, which will be in contact with the surface of Mars. The main goal is to find organic material that has been preserved on this planet since ancient times. The Rover can dig two meters deep in the water surface in search of specimens of old Martian soil. The biomarkers are likely to be detected in these deep samples because the thin atmosphere of Mars does not protect its surface badly from radiation.

In case the purpose of the mission is the search for extraterrestrial life, we must very carefully and carefully protect this planet. Because otherwise you can discover the life that we have brought on this planet ourselves.

 Космическая полиция существует. И защищает она не только Землю

The holder иллюстрацииNASA / JPL-CALTECH / MSSS / HANDOUT
Image captionМиссии with landing on Mars get the highest category of planetary protection

Bi-bi-si : Why do I have to disinfect vehicles that travel in space?

A. K.: You would be amazed at how long micro-organisms can stay in extreme conditions! Over they performed tests in the laboratories, they contained in a vacuum. For example, scientists can simulate the state of space travel to figure, they will survive or not. And microbes do it!

Do you know the theory of panspermia? According to her, life on earth with other objects is brought through space. Be skeptical, but the circumstances in which you can experience a simple form of life are impressive. It seems that we are the most vulnerable beings on earth.

Special issue – what happens when we send people to Mars to settle there. It really did not matter until Elon Musk promised to send a man to Mars. Of course we do not completely sterilize astronauts who are harmful to their health. But this is a new and important question that we still have no answer to.

In this sense, it is useful to perform robotic missions first before people are sent. Because a robot will tell you that, for example, no life has been found on the studied object, including the signs of extinct forms of life. When we receive a response from the robot mission, we can say: "OK, we can go there, there is nothing there". If the robot will confirm that there are signs of life, then we will treat this mission very differently, we will be different to train people who will be there to steer.

 Космическая полиция существует. The holder иллюстрацииPATRICK AVENTURIER / GETTY IMAGES <br /> Image captionМарсоход mission "Eczemas-2020" will be able to dig 2 meters deep in the surface and will be able to detect biomarkers the Mars soil are produced </p>
<p style= Bi-bi-si: do all missions the same safety level?

A. K.: Initially, it is important to understand whether there would be a planned landing of the spacecraft and probably an emergency. The spacecraft can bring itself with some organic material. And even the orbital module can always fail and must then make its emergency landing [though it was not planned].

The Mars mission is in the higher categories as follows: third, fourth or fifth. Missions that do not pose a specific threat – for example, when you just fly past an object, or start a satellite, or when we think the space object is something that does not live (like the asteroid, for example) – it's the first category. If you fly to a planet like Venus (but we do not think I can face life on Venus) or, for example, if it is a mission to the giant planets, do not have a surface to detect life, then there is no chance, it is the second category of planetary protection.

Mission to the icy moons or to Mars without landing – this is the highest category a third. The fourth category – it is mission landing. And the fifth category is when the spacecraft returns to Earth.

When we do not go back to earth, samples from the soil space, e.g. the moon or Mars (which we do not do, but I'm sure that will happen in the future), we need to concentrate on how we can not accidentally bring ground life together on other planets. At this point there are very strict requirements that determine the duration of the mission, and the amount of biological load on the device, since it will be a debate and what they will be living.

Often the answers to these questions depend on where you are. We call Mars a "special area". Here is a great opportunity to find living organisms.

Every time we have made more discoveries that affect subsequent missions. After the interplanetary probe Cassini found on the Enceladus water source of Saturn, which can be an underground reservoir, we realized that the moon will also be subject to a high level of planetary protection.

 Космическая полиция существует. И защищает она не только Землю

The holder иллюстрацииROBYN BECK / AFP / GETTY IMAGES
Image captionДо as the probe "Cassini" found on Enceladus water scientists and not thought to be related to the missions on the moon with greater caution [19659003] Bi-bi-si: What is wrong is to bring life on earth to different conditions, do you ?

A. K.: It will harm our ability to do science. But I can only speak on my own behalf, that is, from the scientist's face. Suppose you want to know if there is anywhere else in the life of the solar system. Everyone wants to know. If it exists somewhere, it means that it was a unique development, unlike the earth. We can also accidentally kill extraterrestrial life – it may be unprepared to defend itself.

If we do not give her the chance to develop in a unique way when we fly and infect, the goal of finding extraterrestrial life is unattainable. We do not know how life on earth appeared, why we are different or vice versa – comparable to life elsewhere. We just do not get a chance to answer all these questions. We lose a whole academic term.

Bi-bi-si: What would happen if we found extraterrestrial life?

A. K.: When we find extraterrestrial life, we stick to the quarantine and we will not immediately bring it to Earth and study in laboratories. Why all these precautions? Because we do not want to infect our planet, our own lives. It works in both directions.

If we find extraterrestrial life … I have no idea what it could be! Scientists agree that this would be a primitive life form. I would not expect that it is something that is developed and has intelligence.

Bi-bi-si: or different countries have a different policy of planetary protection?

AK: only the role of my expert group is to enter into a dialogue between the space agencies of different countries. After all, if the agency of one country says that it wants one level of security, and the agency of the other country wants another, twice as large, it will become a mess. If we do not coordinate our efforts, it may be that the norm for one person is not normal for the other. And it will affect safety and the resulting research results.


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