The hunt for life on Mars continues, but say if we discover life with a decidedly Earth-like flavor? This scenario might not be too far fetched according to a new study carried out by University of Central Florida scientists who will be publishing their work in the April 2010 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
Before any mission to Mars launches, NASA's scientists and engineers put every tiny component of the robot through rigorous sterilization procedures, ensuring the lander or rover is bacteria-free. This isn't because NASA has an extreme case of obsessive compulsive disorder, it's because they want to keep the Martian surface as pristine from Earth Brand™ bugs as possible.
Imagine if a struggling colony of Martian bacteria encountered some germs from Earth. Not only would this be a big let-down as far as first contact with an alien species goes (it's not as if our bacteria would make very good Earth ambassadors), it could wipe out any trace of the native life.
Also, what if Earth Brand™ bacteria has set-up home after hitchhiking in the treads of one of the Mars Exploration Rovers wheels? It would be a shame if it got scooped up by a future life-finding mission; the first life discovered on Mars would actually be Earth life living on Mars!