Scientists warn that alien organisms may invade Earth if biosecurity measures aren’t taken. According to a study published in the international journal BioSciences, increased space travel puts Earth at risk of being invaded by alien organisms. The researchers behind the study say that there is evidence of living organisms having been transferred to space, which means that the reverse could also occur.
The study was conducted by a team of scientists from Australia, including Dr. Phill Cassey, Head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Adelaide. Cassey said that apart from government-led space missions, private players in space travel such as SpaceX increase the risk of importing alien organisms.
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“The arrival of private companies such as SpaceX has meant there are now more players in space exploration than ever before,” said Cassey.
The researchers say that those organizing space missions must invest in biosecurity to prevent such occurrences. Space biosecurity mainly focuses on preventing the transfer of organisms from Earth to space and vice versa. Currently, scientists say that the chance of organisms surviving the journey is low but still possible.
“Risks that have low probability of occurrence, but have the potential for extreme consequences, are at the heart of biosecurity management. Because when things go wrong, they go really wrong,” Cassey said.
Cassey and study co-author Dr. Andrew Woolnough from the University of Melbourne and University of Adelaide argue that the only way of preventing these transfers is by working with invasion scientists. Invasion science is a field that deals with the causes and consequences of introducing organisms to new environments. Cassey and Woolnough say they have valuable information to help space mission organizers protect Earth from invasions.
“We have a fantastic opportunity to contribute to international policy and to develop biosecurity mitigation measures that can be used by the expanding private space industry. This is an untapped economic development opportunity,” Woolnough said.
Even though there is a known potential risk of alien organism invasion, there are no invasion scientists on the Committee on Space Research Planetary Protection. Traditionally, most human discoveries and innovations have come at a cost to nature. With experts on board, future damage could be prevented.
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