Dark Side Of The Poop. NASA To Study Human Feces Left On The Moon 50 Years Ago
If microbes can survive on the Moon, can they survive interstellar travel? Could they seed life across the universe, including on places like Mars?
We poop. We flush it out. But when astronauts poop, they dump it on the moon.
Nope, this is no Rajnikanth or Chuck Norris joke.
50 years ago, mankind made a quantum leap in spaceflight technology with the Apollo 11 carrying Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon. But, besides that, they also dumped a giant heap of human waste on our satellite. 96 bags to be precise! On their way to the moon, or even on the moon, in white ‘jett’ bags. These bags still remain on the lunar surface today.
Now, NASA wants to retrieve the feces left by six Apollo missions and study how they have fared in the moon’s cruelly harsh environment for five decades.
Simply because it has profound implications for the future of space exploration.
Nearly 50% of human excreta mass are made up of bacteria, representing some of the 1,000-plus species of microbes that live in your gut. Disgusting yes, but there's a whole wondrous ecosystem inside. And while Earth has hosted this life and much more for more than 3.9 billion years, the Moon's been sterile and lifeless that whole time.
Therefore, the idea is to analyse how resilient life might be in the brutal environment of the Moon. Think complete vacuum, no atmosphere and wild temperature fluctuations—between -173°C and 100°C over day and night. And if microbes can survive on the Moon, can they survive interstellar travel? Could they seed life across the universe, including on places like Mars?
It’s a question of life, you see—originating from your poop.
Are you serious?
Yeah, all that seems pretty exciting. But, it all depends on whether anything is alive in those jett bags. There’s a good chance that a combination of radiation and extreme temperature has killed the microbes in those jett bags.
Also, bacteria can't replicate or grow without moisture. But hey, with this mission, scientists could possibly figure out how long the microbes lived on the moon and whether they evolved or adapted to the environment at all.
Bring on the faecal mission!!