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Protecting Earth from alien invaders (1964)

21 Sep 2009, 12:40 UTC
Protecting Earth from alien invaders (1964)
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"While much thought and effort have been devoted to the detection of extraterrestrial life and to precautions against contaminating it by terrestrial organisms, much less concerted consideration has been given to the converse problem of back contamination." So began the report of the first conference devoted entirely to the possible dangers of introducing into Earth's environment organisms from other worlds. Thirty experts from NASA, the Department of Agriculture, the Army, the National Institutes of Health, and other government agencies and academic institutions attended the two-day meeting at the end of July 1964.The conference participants cited the "moral, practical responsibility to study and implement protective measures against back contamination. . ." They argued that the U.S. "should take leadership in that effort; having recognized that a potential hazard exists, and having the power to incur it, the concomitant responsibilities must be accepted." Optimism about the prevalence of life in the Solar System underlay their concerns. "There is," they wrote, "substantial agreement among scientists that the origin of life is a general process which can begin wherever certain preconditions of elements and temperature obtain." They judged that environments suitable for life might be found under the lunar surface, high in the clouds ...

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