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You know the moon, right — the big space rock humans landed on for the first time 50 years ago?
Well, astronauts left a lot of stuff behind there.
Stuff like used scientific equipment, clothing, food wrappers and, well… their poop.
Across all 6 moon landings, Apollo astronauts left 96 bags of human waste on the moon.
We're talking poop.
It was left behind to save weight for the return trip.
Stuffed in big trash baggies, like this one, dropped from Apollo 11.
Inside those bags is a big, unanswered question — a scientific mystery that I want answered: Is there anything alive in that moon poop?
I know, I know, this sounds ridiculous.
But the answer might help us understand how life started on Earth.
And it can help us understand our potential to contaminate other worlds — like Mars — with our literal shit.
And the answer, it's not too far away.
It's lying in wait, nearly 240,000 miles away, on the moon.
Right here. Those — this really isn't to scale.
What I'm saying is we gotta go back for that shit.
Human feces can be disgusting, sure. This is not — this is Play Doh.
But it's also teeming with life.
Around half of its mass is made up of bacteria, representing some of the 1,000-plus species of microbes that live in our guts.
With the moon landings, we took microbial life on Earth to the most extreme environment it has ever been in.
And we don't know if it can survive there.
In all the ways Earth is so hospitable to life, the moon is not.
It does not have a protective magnetic field to deflect the most powerful and damaging cosmic radiation.
It doesn't have an ozone layer to absorb the sun's ultraviolet rays.
It doesn't have an atmosphere.
And the moon is subjected to wild temperature swings over day and night.
A lot would have to go right for the microbes to still be alive — or at least revivable from a dormant state.
But there are some scientists who want to go back and check, because there are two really fascinating things that we can learn from this poop.
The first has to do with a planet millions of miles away from the moon: Mars.
For decades, scientists have wondered if there's life on Mars — and they're getting closer to figuring it out.
Mars has a thin atmosphere, evidence of flowing water, and a more hospitable environment than the moon.
(If) microbes can survive on the moon, they're even more likely to survive on Mars.
So what happens if humans go to Mars and leave their poop there and the microbes in it start to spread?
It will be hard to tell what life we find there is Martian and what life we brought with us if we accidentally contaminate the planet with our poop.
But there's also a bigger question.
There's a hypothesis about how life started on Earth: that it didn't start on Earth at all.
That some asteroid or comet, containing some microbes, crashed-landed here and seeded life on the planet.
Finding living things in the moon poop could support that hypothesis, because if microbial life can survive on the moon, it could survive on an asteroid, too.
And if the hypothesis is true, it could mean life travels across the universe, jumping from planet-to-planet, from asteroid collisions.
Here's a wilder thought: Let's say an asteroid comes hurtling by, slams into the moon, and projects the Apollo mission moon poop into the deep reaches of space.
Could that seed life in the broader universe?
So how do we figure out the answer to these great mysteries?
We go back.
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月球上有坨便便!?這坨便便或許可以解開生命之謎! (Astronauts left poop on the moon. We should go get it.)

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April Lu 發佈於 2019 年 7 月 1 日    April Lu 翻譯    Liang Chen 審核
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