By: April Carson
A NASA scientist has explained how her work may help prevent astronauts and spacecrafts from spreading "alien contamination" back to Earth. They hope that by understanding how dangerous Martian life could be, they can protect Earth from any potential threat.
Dr. Moogega Cooper, a real-life "Guardian of the Galaxy," has recently discussed her vital role at Talks at Google. Dr. Cooper explained to Google, "I work as a planetary protection engineer, which means I am responsible for two things."
“The first part is that, when we send spacecraft, rovers, orbiters, or whatever else to another planet, moon, or asteroid that may contain life, it's my objective and the team's goal to ensure that we don't inadvertently transmit Earth germs to those places.”
“The second part of my job is to make sure that any samples that we bring back from those other worlds don't pose a threat to the Earth. So, in short, I work to keep the Earth safe from aliens and aliens safe from the Earth.” Cooper’s job is to try and protect our own planet from any future ‘alien contamination’.
Another concern is that scientists may mistake a "hitchhiker from Earth" for life. Dr. Cooper is working to avoid that scenario for NASA, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In her role, Dr. Cooper oversees all aspects of planetary protection for outbound and inbound missions, ensures compliance with international planetary protection treaties and conventions, and manages the Planetary Protection Office's budget.
“We hope to bring samples back to our own planet at some point and you must have the same care,” she added.
“When you bring something back, you don't want to do so with the potential to harm humans. So, we have to do everything in our power to ensure it's done correctly.”
She continued: “The amount of contaminates that can make its way onto the spacecraft is huge and the number one source is from humans, the people that put the spacecraft together.
“We have more microorganisms in and on us than human cells. We’re more bacteria than humans, and nevertheless we're handling these materials.” To prevent any harmful viruses or bacteria from hitchhiking on returning spacecraft, scientists have to clean them thoroughly.
She added that people who construct spacecraft must wear cleanroom apparel to avoid being contaminated. A 'cleanroom', for example, is one that includes an ambient air layer with fewer germs and particles.
Dr. Cooper and her team also conduct regular spacecraft replacements to ensure that they are not contaminated.
When it comes to defending Earth from extraterrestrial life, Cooper explains that we may only protect ourselves against life as we know it today.
“If we learn something new, we can adjust it. It's the same with COVID. You learn something new and have to adjust it,” she added. "You just take it with stride as a scientist, which is the same way for Martian life.”
“We only know life as we know it. As a result, the worst thing on our planet will be used as a model for Martian life.”
The scientists are now using prions to create "potentially dangerous" Martian life models. Prions are molecules that can do a lot of damage to your brain. There are several prions on Earth that cause mad cow disease, which can lead to dementia and death.
“What if Martian life was caused by prions?” asked Dr. Cooper. Her duty is to figure out how scientists might destroy the hazardous "life" and prevent it from causing harm on Earth.
Dr. Cooper and her team are still working on models for these worst-case situations. They have not found any Martian life yet, but they want to be prepared just in case.
"The goal is to be able to identify a prion on Mars and then figure out how to destroy it," said Dr. Cooper. "If there are Martian prions, we need to know about them."
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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