Astrobiology Wiki:New editors
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Robert Walker[edit source | hide | hide all]
Hi, I founded this wiki after I got blocked as an editor in Wikipedia (see background to this encyclopedia). I trained as a mathematician and have a long term interest in astronomy and space missions, and many related areas of science including of course astrobiology. A few years back I developed an interest in planetary protection for robotic and human missions to Mars and other planets and moons in our solar system. I've been blogging about this for some time on my blog on Science 2.0 and quora, and wrote a book on planetary protection Touch Mars? Europa? Enceladus? Or a Tale of Missteps? which you can read online and on kindle. For several years I used to edit Wikipedia in various areas including planetary protection, and astrobiology. Now that I've been blocked, I plan to work on new wikis instead. This is one of them.
My own views on the planetary protection debate are that we should send humans to the Moon first, where we can learn about sustainability in space, and about effects of forwards contamination in a place where the effects are limited and comparatively easy to contain. I think we should explore Mars from orbit and do a thorough astrobiological survey before we consider whether to send humans to the surface, and what precautions to take. I think it is premature to try to do this at such an early stage in our understanding of the astrobiology of Mars (if any). Sending humans to the Mars surface right now means we have to take precautions for any concievable astrobiology, before we know what is there, and before we know of any other form of biochemistry other than Earth life. To me, this seems a back to front way of doing things, and also could lead to us making mistakes.
I also think we should work towards 100% sterile rovers for astrobioloogy and believe that this is feasible using the technology being developed for Venus surface missions, with heat sterilizaation to 300 °C. That is hot enough to destroy all amino acids, so a few months heat sterilization at 300 C in an interplanetary journey would result in a 100% sterile spacecraft. Any method of 100% sterilization is fine but that seems the most feasible at present. I know that it is ambitious at present but once we can achieve that we can send astrobiological rovers and instruments anywhere, even to the most vulnerable habitats, without any concerns of contamination. So the pay off would be enormous. They could also be used for habitats on Earth such as lake Vostok which we wish to keep free of contamination by surface life.
I express views like this in my blog, but not in the encylcopedia. So far I have not tried to get a paper published on my own views but am working on one right now which I hope some day to submit to the astrobiological journals. You can find out a bit more about me on my user page. Incidentally, of course please don't feel you need to agree with me on any of this to edit this encyclopedia! The aim is to express all the views in this wide ranging debate and editors from all viewpoints are welcome to help ensure the material is expressed in a complete and encyclopedic way. Robertinventor (talk) 00:14, 8 September 2018 (UTC)