archive: RE: [ASTRO] SETIWHENEVER - Apollo 12/Surveyor 3/microbes

RE: [ASTRO] SETIWHENEVER - Apollo 12/Surveyor 3/microbes

Larry Klaes ( )
Tue, 1 Sep 1998 17:50:56 -0400

No, it was Apollo 12, which landed in the Ocean of Storms in
November of 1969, just 600 feet away from Surveyor 3, the lunar
lander in question, which had arrived back in 1967.

There has been considerable debate whether the microbes were
indeed brought along with Surveyor 3 and survived on Luna for over
two years, or if they somehow got inside the returned lander parts
upon examination at Earth.

For the record, here is what is said in the Apollo Lunar Surface
Journal (ALSJ) in the Apollo 12 section:

Pete then noted that, in the post-flight analysis, terrestrial bacteria were found on the Surveyor parts, despite significant efforts to sterilize the spacecraft prior to launch.]

[Conrad - "The thing that had the bacteria in it was the television camera. The styrofoam in between the inner and outer shells. There's a report on that. I always thought the most significant thing that we ever found on the whole goddamn Moon was that little bacteria who came back and lived and nobody ever said shit about it."]

[Journal reader Marv Hein called my attention to a discussion in the NASA report, "Analysis of Surveyor 3 material and photographs returned by Apollo 12". Material in that report indicates that the survival of microbes was anticipated at the time Surveyor III was launched. "The precautions against the contamination of the Moon, once strict, have now been relaxed in view of our developing knowledge of the inhospitable environment for terrestrial life that exists on the lunar surface and the belief that landed contamination, if it survives, will remain localized. For these reasons, lunar landing spacecraft may have on board a low level of microbial life, they must be decontaminated but not sterile."]

[According to Hein, "The microbes were identified as 'alpha hemolytic Streptococcus mitis' in sample 32 extracted from foam insulation used between 2 aluminum plates of the camera circuit boards and extracted through a hole originally cut for the placement of electronic components. It is estimated that between 2 and 50 cells were isolated from the foam sample. There is significant discussion (in the NASA report) as to how it may have survived."]

From: CVA
Sent: Monday, August 31, 1998 6:27 PM
To: Jega A. Arulpragasam; astro list

Extraterrestrial life was first discovered on the Moon. Streptococcus, did you know that? Yup. In the early 1970's, I think it was Apollo 14 --
correct me if I'm off on this one, which I may well be -- returned to Earth
chunks of an unmanned probe they had landed near (sent previously by
humans, fear not). On one of these pieces was a small colony of
streptococcus bacteria that had endured the insults of freeze drying,
intense vibration, cold, heat and, a lengthy dose of gamma and other
radiation. This all occurred in the normal course of 'sterilizing' and
flying the poor little fellas to the Moon...without pay. In effect, they
were inadvertent castaways (this incident is a major driver behind the
anxiety regarding Mars mission sterilization procedures).

Well, the little beasties survived. And, by way of incidental reward, were fed a bug's version of chicken soup to see what they would do. Guess what? They ate it and did the Popeye thing...grew...strong. Unfazed. Even Schwarzenegger would be hard pressed to outdo that little trip.