By Nick Spanlopis
Nick Spanlopis, Student of astronomy at Victor Valley Community College.
We actually have, on accident, and studied them on their return. A good example would be on the Apollo program where a camera left on the surface of the moon was brought back 3 years later. Microbes that had been on the camera when it was left were still alive when it came back.
Now the reason we don’t do it on purpose is because we don’t want to accidentally introduce Earth life to other worlds and accidentally wipe out any life that might already be there. Earth life has some extremely resilient forms and as has been seen on Earth, a foreign species introduction can wipe out huge swaths of an eco system. We don’t want to do this. If there is life out there we want to study it free of the influence of Earth life.
Incredibly, a large variety of microbes do incredibly well in space, which is quite worrying. There is already fear that we may have introduced life forms to other planetary bodies. Such as a satellite that was crashed into mercury. In that instance, we studied the plume that was thrown up by the impact and discovered water. Which means we crashed the satellite into an environment where Earth life could find a foot hold. It is something we try very hard to avoid because of regrets like that. Even when we think there isn’t life somewhere, there might still be.