Catching "cooties"—it's not just fodder for playground politics. What if a single hair on your head, the oils on your fingertips, or one of the thousands of droplets of saliva you expel each time you cough had the potential to jeopardize a multibillion-dollar interplanetary mission?
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Catching "cooties"—it's not just fodder for playground politics. What if a single hair on your head, the oils on your fingertips, or one of the thousands of droplets of saliva you expel each time you cough had the potential to jeopardize a multibillion-dollar interplanetary mission? This fear hits far too close to home for every NASA scientist who helps build the Mars rovers or any other instrument destined for outer space.
Mars hasn't received an "Earth vaccine," so if too much earthly biological material gets transferred from the scientists to the rovers to Mars, those Earth germs could have devastating effects—not only on the success of NASA's missions but to the red planet as a whole.
NASA mechanical engineer Kobie Boykins, who helped design all four rovers that have landed on Mars, explains how we could infect Mars and what precautions NASA takes against doing so, and he reminds us what happened in the past when scientists didn't keep their ""cooties"" to themselves.
Read more about making Mars home in the latest issue of National Geographic magazine and watch MARS, the global event series on National Geographic.
PRODUCERS: Nora Rappaport and Laurence Alexander
EDITOR: Nora Rappaport
SERIES PRODUCER: Chris Mattle
ASSOCIATE PRODUCERS: Elaina Kimes and Jared M. Gair
FOOTAGE COURTESY: NASA
TIL: We Could Give Mars Our "Cooties" | Today I Learned