Perhaps the concern here is that if there is life (micriobial or
otherwise) under the surface of Europa, exposing it to Earth microbes
could possibly harm or destroy it. If this happened, it would not only be
an awful way to say hello (so to speak) but also would limit (or at least
severely change) our ability to study these lifeforms and learn something
new. Now, if, as you suggest, Europa may have already been exposed to
Earth microbes, well, that changes the equation, but only slightly.
Depends on how long ago this occurred, what kinds of microbes we're
talking about, how their introduction affected things over time, etc. Who
knows? There's an awful lot of long shots involved here. Why not show a
little foresight and plan for all contingencies? Seems sensible to me.
Michael Lorrey wrote:
> Was just reading the latest on the Europa Orbiter mission planning, how
> people are concerned about contaminating Europa with earth microbes.
> What I want to know is: why can we expect Europa to not already be
> contaminated by earth microbes? Given impact events like the Yucatan
> Extinction, some biological material must have been ejected into orbit
> at some point in the past, and given that Europa has no atmosphere, any
> terran ejecta that landed on Europa in the past likely carried microbes
> fast frozen. Can anyone give any reason why this shouldn't be expected?
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