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  • You know the moon, rightthe big space rock humans landed on for the first time 50 years ago?

  • Well, astronauts left a lot of stuff behind there.

  • Stuff like used scientific equipment, clothing, food wrappers and, welltheir poop.

  • Across all 6 moon landings, Apollo astronauts left 96 bags of human waste on the moon.

  • We're talking poop.

  • Pee.

  • Vomit.

  • It was left behind to save weight for the return trip.

  • Stuffed in big trash baggies, like this one, dropped from Apollo 11.

  • Inside those bags is a big, unanswered question — a scientific mystery that I want answered: Is there anything alive in that moon poop?

  • I know, I know, this sounds ridiculous.

  • But the answer might help us understand how life started on Earth.

  • And it can help us understand our potential to contaminate other worldslike Marswith our literal s***.

  • And the answer, it's not too far away.

  • It's lying in wait, nearly 240,000 miles away, on the moon.

  • Right here. Thosethis really isn't to scale.

  • What I'm saying is we gotta go back for that s***.

  • Human feces can be disgusting, sure. This is notthis is Play Doh.

  • But it's also teaming with life.

  • Around half of its mass is made up of bacteria, representing some of the 1,000-plus species of microbes that live in our guts.

  • With the moon landings, we took microbial life on Earth to the most extreme environment it has ever been in.

  • And we don't know if it can survive there.

  • In all the ways Earth is so hospitable to life, the moon is not.

  • It does not have a protective magnetic field to deflect the most powerful and damaging cosmic radiation.

  • It doesn't have an ozone layer to absorb the sun's ultraviolet rays.

  • It doesn't have an atmosphere.

  • And the moon is subjected to wild temperature swings over day and night.

  • A lot would have to go right for the microbes to still be alive thereor at least revivable from a dormant state.

  • But there are some scientists who want to go back and check, because there are two really fascinating things that we can learn from this poop.

  • The first has to do with a planet millions of miles away from the moon: Mars.

  • For decades, scientists have wondered if there's life on Marsand they're getting closer to figuring it out.

  • Mars has a thin atmosphere, evidence of flowing water, and a more hospitable environment than the moon.

  • If microbes can survive on the moon, they're even more likely to survive on Mars.

  • So what happens if humans go to Mars and leave their poop there and the microbes in it start to spread?

  • It will be hard to tell what life we find there is Martian and what life we brought with us if we accidentally contaminate the planet with our poop.

  • There's also a bigger question.

  • There's a hypothesis about how life started on Earth, that (it) didn't actually start on Earth at all.

  • That some asteroid or comet, containing some microbes, crashed-landed here and seeded life on the planet.

  • Finding living things in the moon poop could support that hypothesis, because if microbial life can survive on the moon, it can survive on an asteroid, too.

  • And if the hypothesis is true, it can mean life travels across the universe, jumping from planet-to-planet, from asteroid collisions.

  • Here's a wilder thought: Let's say an asteroid comes hurteling by, slams into the moon, and projects the Apollo mission moon poop into the deep reaches of space.

  • Could that seed life in the broader universe?

  • Maybe.

  • So how do we figure out the answer to these great mysteries?

  • Easy.

  • We go back.

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You know the moon, rightthe big space rock humans landed on for the first time 50 years ago?

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B2 US Vox moon poop dashlane asteroid life

Astronauts left poop on the moon. We should go get it.

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    April Lu posted on 2019/06/30
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