What if There was Life on Other Worlds?   7 comments

The UN Outer Space Treaty and Planetary Protection

What is Planetary Protection?

Planetary protection refers to ‘interplanetary contamination’ – protecting solar system bodies (i.e., planets, moons, comets, and asteroids) from ‘biological contamination’ by Earth organisms, (Forward contamination – the transfer ofviable organisms’ from Earth to another interplanetary body), and protecting Earth from the transmission of alien organisms, to Earth’s biosphere e.g. as a result of ‘extra-terrestrial sample-return missions.’ (Back contamination)

 

The Outer Space Treaty

Why is Planetary Protection Important?

Planetary protection is a directive code in the blueprint of an interplanetary assignment, and is critical for several important reasons:  

  • mirrors the unknown nature of the space environment 
  • to safeguard our ability to study other worlds in detail, in their natural conditions 
  • to prevent contamination that would make it difficult/impossible to find potential life on another world  
  • to ensure that we take judicious safety measures to shield Earth’s biosphere in case it does.  

The UN Outer Space Treaty and Planetary Protection

The legal basis for planetary protection is located in Article IX of the United Nations Outer Space Treaty ratified in 1967 by the US, USSR, and UK.

“Article IX: … States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extra-terrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose.”

Requirements for Protecting Life on Other Bodies

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Planetary protection prerequisites for each mission and interplanetary body in focus are ascertained based on the scientific advice of the Space Studies Board, NASA or international policy guidelines.

Each mission is categorized according to:

  • Type of mission (e.g. flyby, orbiter, or lander)
  • Nature of its destination (e.g. a planet, moon, comet, or asteroid)
  • And the planetary bodies that may be discovered over the course of the mission (e.g. Mars and Europa).

Proposal to Increase Time-Scale for Planetary Protection

In the case of  Europa, the majority opinion was, that not only should Europa be kept it is not contamination-free during current times of exploration, but that it could well be scientifically important enough to warrant being kept in an un-touched and un-contaminated condition for future generations to benefit from studying too. 

“One consequence of this view is that Europa must be protected from contamination for an open-ended period, until it can be demonstrated that no ocean exists or that no organisms are present. Thus, we need to be concerned that over a time scale on the order of 10 million to 100 million years (an approximate age for the surface of Europa), any contaminating material is likely to be carried into the deep ice crust or into the underlying ocean.” 

(The minority opinion was that these protection measures are unnecessarily strong.)

But What About the Natives??!!

Europa and Alien Life

It is natural that we should want to explore worlds with the potential for life, and even to exploit them, but what if these worlds, such as Europa, do prove to have natives? There are different views on this subject. For example:

  • If the life is only microbial then there is no cause to worry about it. We should not let microbes interfere with potential colonisation.
  • It has its own ecosystem, and this should be left alone. However, if the long-term aim was to terraform Europa it would change the climate of the moon along with the rest of Europa.

Will we as egotistical humans decide, that despite knowing that this is a world that we have had no hand in creating, none-the-less that we should take measures to change it anyway? Or will we recognise our boundaries and appreciate that we have a unique standing in the cosmos, and therefore put aside our arrogance and leave untouched, a world, and possibly an eco-system, that we have had no hand in creating?

Europa’s Icewolf’s Personal Howl!

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My personal howl on this subject is that absolutely Europa needs to be protected from Earth contamination! We do not know the consequences of any potential contamination. And precautions should be taken so that accurate observations can be made regarding any life found on Europa. If we find life there, it will have its own ecosystem and we should leave it alone and allow it to be a nature reserve moon. We may even be able to find ways to improve its habitat to help its life to thrive in ways not yet possible for it on icy Europa. It may be possible to ring fence the inhabited areas to reduce human contact, but it seems to me that such action would serve only to damage Europa, and ultimately this moon needs to be left alone! 

As mentioned earlier, backward contamination by micro-organisms (e.g. bacteria, certain algae and fungi) from other worlds are also a risk, when carried back to Earth on probes. which could have catastrophic upshots for Earth dwellers. Our immune systems will not have any resistance to extra-terrestrial micro-organisms. Not only would our bodies be totally unable to fight them it is pretty much guaranteed that we would have no time and no opportunity to research the creation of the necessary vaccine. Therefore, it will be essential to have high-level, cutting-edge systems for filtering and highly advanced procedures in place.

What do YOU think?!!

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Discovering beyond all doubt that alien life does exist would have big impacts on Earth.

  • Inevitably there would be changes to terrestrial science, technology, religion, politics and ecosystems as a result of contact with extra-terrestrial life, whether it be microbial or a technologically advanced civilisation.

Consequences for Society and Cultural Back-Lashes

Nobody will avoid the impact from the culture shock that would occur if we were to discover extra-terrestrial life, whatever form it might take. We would be forced to face the sudden reality that we were not a unique exception in the universe, which could cause a very serious back-lash in society as we know it. A culture shock of this nature could last for decades, possibly centuries. It would not only be ourselves affected in the deepest and most profound of ways but also our children and our children’s children. As we reach out to new, unexplored worlds with no real knowledge of what we might find there, exactly how the potential revelation of extra-terrestrial life and the impact on future generations is an issue that requires our consideration…

…NOW!!  

Sources: 

https://planetaryprotection.nasa.gov/overview 

https://www.state.gov/t/isn/5181.htm 

http://www.unoosa.org/pdf/publications/STSPACE11E.pdf   (SpaceTreaty PDF) 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_protection 

www.space.com  (What Finding Alien Life Could Mean for Earth) 

www.wikipedia.com  (Potential Cultural Impact) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Join IceWolf’s Holiday in the Sun!   4 comments

😃Send Your Name to the Sun 😃🛰🚀

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So! That’s Icewolf’s summer holiday sorted! And a sun tan the like of which has never been seen before!! 

Launch Site: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center:  July 31 – Aug 19, 2018

Join the Mission – Send Your Name to the Sun

Follow the Mission at Facebook: NASASunScience

Follow the Mission at Twitter: NASASun

Additional Information about the Parker Solar Probe Mission

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Happy New Year 2018   5 comments

 

And now we welcome the New Year. Full of things that have never been. (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering “It will be happier.” (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

Europa’s Icewolf is Going to Mars!   35 comments

Europa’s Icewolf is Going to Mars!!

Mars-InSight Boarding Pass 🙂

My name is onboard the “passenger list” for the next mission to Mars-InSight!

InSight will launch in May, 2018. It will study the interior of Mars and listen for Marsquakes. 

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Feel free to join me! I’ve recently completed an Open University course – How to Survive on Mars, so everyone will be fine! All my shiny new followers welcome too 🙂 It will be the perfect time to get to know each other…it takes a while to get to Mars! Look carefully, and you may even see the Black Wolves of Mars 😉

Silence in the Shadows: Ring-World   21 comments

 

 

Galaxy’s Edge – The Final Planetary Frontier

 

 

Dark alien planetscape…eerie silence bar the wisps of the star winds whispering across a shadowed, dimly-lit terrain. The final planetary frontier, the most distant planetary world in the galaxy…ice cold and barely lit, by a star a million light years away.

 

The shuttle port was the busiest in the galaxy and settling back comfortably in few remaining free viewing zones intergalactic voyagers watched the ringed shadow of other worlds drift in the skies, as shuttles cleared the flight gantries soaring or roaring, depending on specific speed and flight capacities.

Tourists awed by the sight of the giant swirling vortex at the end of the galaxy – galaxy’s edge. The hub at the end of the galaxy teaming with life that many did not realise existed. Business and leisure intermingled as the vortex at the end of the galaxy swirled in dominant splendour, marking the largely ignored gateway to alternative worlds. It was all very self-contained and comfortable. Yerik and Yelena unashamedly joined the group gazing into the monumental machinery of the galaxy, worlds away from home. Dreams circled in their alien eyes reflecting the bright arms of the vortex. The viewing area alive with the lucky few who had chanced on the space city nestling at the end of the galaxy, a well-kept gem known to the lucky and the privileged.

Yerik glanced sideways at Yelena, seeing a woman lost in the darkened dreams of interplanetary mysteries. Drifting, sliding rifts of thought and endless dreams, meandering like a metallic river through the wandering imagination of a star-driven mind. Floating on the ectoplasm of a world of thoughts. Distant worlds drifted in her eyes, the echoes of the universe’s wonders ebbing and flowing in an endless cosmic flow, in tune with the darkened, radioactive river flowing in untouchable sentient streams through the interstellar star city.

A world built for thousands and inhabited by none. A radioactive ghost city immaculate and equipped with all manner of hi tech gadgetry. A modern day sentinel world humming with electronic life but devoid of any living being. Deep in its centre, artificial green parks and well-stocked shopping malls; still and silent, locked down by an electronic security system, manned remotely from a distant world a thousand light years away. Silent, dark transporter rooms housing brand new equipment that would never be used, never see the immaculate highways built for them. Silence. Sentinel. A world where only the cold winds whispered across a barren and darkened world….

 

 

 

Yelena.jpgLost and distant… Lured by a sighing solar wind that filtered the haunting gold-black suns, filaments tenderly flickering amongst the strands of her fractured thoughts. He had seen that look before…not often, but enough to know. Speaking her name gruffly, chiselled features hard and set, Yerik sensed also, that she was psychologically and emotionally a million light years away, caught up in the desolation, lost in the land of wolves…not of this world…distant and unreadable, and definitely not responding… and she needed to! “Yelena!!” He barked her name sharply this time, eyes, grey and shrouded in cold self-assured scrutiny, attitude dark and commanding demanding her attention in his own language, determined to exact a response from her one way or another.

She started as the alien winds brushed gently through her hair, as ethereal as the dimly lit world they wandered through, stirring her thoughts back to the alien reality before her; to the thrill of the final cosmic frontier.  Silvered seas of tranquility sliding into the night of another world. Vast and silken-dark waters, glistening in wonderful isolation in the flashing lights of exotic, alien eyes.

She turned slowly, gazing deep into his soul, drifting back to him from a great distance, nanotechnogy second after nano second…wolf breed…sleep walking… wolf flashed in her eyes awaking suspiciously to only half conceal the stark warning of wolf and woman towards the veiled threat of the alien male.  She responded to him in his own language, her tones low and throaty, her eyes inward looking, at some unseen mirage of this radioactive world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The final planetary frontier, the most distant planetary world in the galaxy…ice cold and barely lit, by a star a million light years away.

 

Always remember that your present situation is not your final destination. The best is yet to come.

Blogging Blues…   40 comments

Searching for Inspiration…..

 

Watching meteors

 

Funky Mix2A

Posted May 17, 2017 by europasicewolf in Uncategorized

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Happy Easter from Europa :)   13 comments

 

 

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New evidence from NASA indicates that the most likely places to find life beyond Earth are Jupiter’s moon Europa or Saturn’s moon Enceladus. They, like Earth, are both ocean worlds and in both therein are some of the key ingredients for life.

A wealth of hydrogen molecules in water plumes soaring from the ruptures in Enceladus’s icy surface, have been detected by the Cassini spacecraft. The vital chemical methane, could also be establishing itself in the ocean beneath the ice.

The elusive presence of a water plume erupting on the warmest part of Europa’s icy surface, which has a salty liquid ocean beneath it was shown by the Hubble Space Telescope. The ocean itself contains double the amount of water found in the oceans of Earth.

 

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Europa could be the pick of the bunch for life-bearing within our own solar system outside of our homeworld. will launch In the 2020’s the Europa Clipper will be launched, and should arrive at Europa a few years later. It will be the first to explore an alien ocean and will also fly through the plume to collect data.

It will definitely be a first to discover Intergalactic Liver Cake – staple diet of Icewolves, and indeed most domestic canines Earth! The structure of the Liver Cake may differ slightly from much-loved Earthly treat, but the Europan version is just as mouthwatering and tasty to both lupine and canine alike 🙂 And what better time than Easter, the time of ressurection and new life, to discover tantsalising new life hopes on worlds not so very far from home?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Icewolf of course, did not go hunting any down without telling Clowie, the Pyrenean Mountain Dog…she would never dream of such indiscretion 😉 …. Never!

Image: Europa’s Icewolf 2017_ Europa’s Icewolf: Jupiter, seen from Europa.