NASA Quite Possibly Contaminated Mars
Photo from NASA The Curiosity Rover, both curious and possibly toting bacteria on Mars.
Ray Bradbury once said that Mars is the future for mankind, so we have to wonder what the science fiction genius would have to say if he knew that we've already (possibly) managed to contaminate our future with Earth bacteria.
Yep, the Mars Curiosity Rover landed on the red planet in 2012, and it was already a known fact that the rover would carry bacteria with it. It's virtually impossible to get all the Earth bacteria off of anything, so that's just the way it is. However, it was thought that whatever bacteria was left after NASA's rigorous cleaning process would never make it to the planet or survive long enough in the new Martian conditions to, you know, survive.
That's where it seems we were all misinformed (in this parlance, "misinformed" is a fancy way of saying "wrong"). Or at least potentially wrong. According to a study just presented at the American Society for Microbiology's annual meeting, it's decidedly possible that some of the bacteria might have actually survived. Of the 377 strains of bacteria known to be on the rover based on swabs -- taken before it left Earth but after the decontamination process -- a high number of the strains were able to make it through extreme temperatures and ultraviolet-C radiation, the nastiest type, according to Nature News. Plus, about 11 percent of the strains made it multiple conditions at once.
In short, we still don't know if there is actual Martian life on Mars, but it is decidedly possible that there is a bacterial form of life hanging out there now, on the rover and possibly on the planet itself. Fingers crossed it's not something planet-killing.