Astrobiology: May 2020 Archives

NASA Should Beware of Viruses From Outer Space, Bloomberg Opinion

"This summer, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will launch a rover designed to collect samples of the Martian surface and store them until they can eventually be brought back to Earth. When they arrive, according to a former NASA scientist, they'll be "quarantined and treated as though they are the Ebola virus until proven safe."His statement caused a minor media sensation, and understandably so. ... At the same time, a public scarred by the coronavirus is likely to be wary of any space missions that require Ebola-level containment strategies. If NASA and other spacefarers want to assure people that they shouldn't be worried about Martian Ebola, they need to prove that their safety efforts are as failsafe as their engineering."

Keith's update: Scott Hubbard needs to apologize to everyone working at NASA for his ignorant remark. It is still echoing through the news media. This calls for a public retraction by him saying that he was wrong and that the report that he claims to represent did not mention the words "Ebola" or "disease" or cover that issue and that he was in error suggesting that it did. The author of this new article clearly did not research before writing it. He just repeats what was already bouncing around from Hubbard's original gaffe. Saying stupid stuff like "Ebola" simply gives the media something to arm wave about - especially when we are in the midst of a pandemic. Why are people going to take NASA science seriously when former senior NASA officials say uniformed things like Hubbard did - and then do not have the professional responsibility to correct the record?

MARS ATTACKS Stanford professor warns Mars rock samples 'could bring alien viruses to Earth' and they 'must be treated like Ebola', The Sun

"A STANFORD professor is warning that new rock samples from Mars could bring new viruses to Earth."

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Stanford's Scott Hubbard contributed to new 'planetary quarantine' report reviewing risks of alien contamination, Stanford University

"In my opinion, and that of the science community, the chance that rocks from Mars that are millions of years old will contain an active life form that could infect Earth is extremely low. But, the samples returned by MSR will be quarantined and treated as though they are the Ebola virus until proven safe." Keith's note: Scott Hubbard is certainly free to speak his mind - especially if he is on a panel that writes a NASA advisory report. But he really should not be at the forefront of discussing the planetary protection topic in public. The use of the word "Ebola" in the same sentence with NASA's Mars sample return plans is just ill-advised arm waving and results in follow-on articles that pick up on the use of the word "Ebola". Oh yea and we're IN THE MIDDLE OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC, Scott. Talk about the worst time to link something NASA wants to do with a lethal infectious disease.

And guess what, Scott - when you make comparisons like this you inevitably get headlines in follow-on articles and quotes that hype the "Ebola" mention that millions of people will read as a direct result. Not the smartest thing to say right now - or at any other time. Look at the quick Google news search for "Scott Hubbard Ebola" (larger image). I'm sure NASA loves headlines like this from the Sun: "MARS ATTACKS Stanford professor warns Mars rock samples 'could bring alien viruses to Earth' and they 'must be treated like Ebola'".

But wait, there's more: download the report that Scott Hubbard is referring to. Link here: "Assessment of the Report of NASA's Planetary Protection Independent Review Board". Do a simple word search for "Ebola". Guess what: the report never mentions "Ebola". The report makes no mention of the words "disease", "pandemic", "virus", or "Coronavirus" either. Then why is Hubbard freelancing and making a comparison to a lethal pathogen - a topic that the report itself does not even mention?



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