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Biological Contamination from Space a Real Threat for Earth: Study

Our interest in the mysteries of the dark abyss of space has led us to interact frequently and abundantly with the cosmos. Not only the government-led organisations but private players have also started exploring outer space. The journeys made from Earth to space and back foster certain risks that have a “low probability of occurrence but high potential for extreme consequences.” Researchers at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide, have devised a study that suggests that we need to pay more attention and prioritize biosecurity in the space industry.

Space biosecurity deals with the transfer of organisms from the Earth to outer space, known as Forward Contamination, and vice-versa called Backward Contamination. Researchers believe that even though the chance of survival of organisms during the journey is low, it is not impossible and requires reinforced focus.

“Risks that have very less probability of occurrence, but have high potential for extreme consequences, are at the helm of biosecurity management. Because when things go wrong, they go really wrong. We need to take action now to mitigate the risks of contamination,” said Dr. Phill Cassey, Head of Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Adelaide, in a press release.

According to the authors of the study, the nascent field of Invasion Science, which deals with the causes and consequences of organisms being introduced in new environments, can play a key role in Space Biosecurity. The field can provide valuable insight into detection, assessment, and response in case of a hazardous invasion of alien organisms on Earth.

Talking about the measures that can be taken to prevent such a scenario, Dr. Cassey said, “For example, it is easier and cheaper to implement protocols and preventive measures on Earth than on outer planets, say Mars, to inhibit biological contamination.”

The authors believe that the study can catalyse the growth of the space industry. Furthermore, space Biosecurity also offers an untapped economic development opportunity which can prove to be very fruitful for the private players involved in the Space Industry.

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