Space exploration poses threats to space and Earth

To the Editor:

A number of nations are in or about to go into space for a variety of reasons such as military, scientific, adventure, and tourism, in search of mineral wealth and even agriculture.

For example, it has been reported that the American company Heinz ketchup had proposed to grow tomatoes on Mars. It also has been reported that diapers would be needed by the astronauts for these long space expeditions.

Human feces can contain bacterial, fungal, and protozoan pathogens, which may find a way to reproduce in some of these foreign environments.

They will face different selective pressures causing them to change as they adapt to that environment. Some of the changes might actually make the organisms more disease causing.

In my 41 years as wildlife pathologist for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, part of my job was to monitor for exotic diseases coming into the state. That led me to finding a number of diseases such as the epizootic hemorrhagic disease and the West Nile virus.

However, when you consider the possibility of organisms that could be introduced from space and from Earth to space, I realize that at this time we have an even greater threat.

We should have a number of scientists in different disciplines take a look at some of the potential effects of biota introduced into space. And also, the possibility of biota already in space that can adapt to Earth, grow, and compete with organisms here on Earth.

I suggest that congressional hearings be held as quickly as possible on the potential for Earth’s existing biota to become a problem in space and vice versa.

Biota doesn’t need to be disease-causing to be a massive problem but could be invasive and outcompete the Earth species. The United States already has a lot of scientifically skilled people who should be consulted on potential threats by evolving biota from space.

These people include academic biologists and ecologists from universities, state agencies, the U.S. military medical corps and scientific personnel from the departments of the interior, health, and agriculture.

We have seen what not being prepared for COVID-19 has cost us in human mortality and it is possible that introduced organisms from space could cause bigger problems than we’ve ever seen. We have thoroughly polluted Earth and we should not follow with the pollution of space.

Ward Stone


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