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Can we ever colonize another planet without decimating the environment with just the microbes on our skin?

I was just thinking about what would it take to live on another planet with earth like features and then came to mind even the simplest microbe from the soil on earth could devastate the ecosystem of another world or at least cause a severe impact on the environment.

Could we ever safely colonize, and is there any research or discussions going on about this?

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    Nov 16 2012: Your question is why many of us believe that human expansion beyond Earth will not occur on other planets, but on space habitats such as Bernal spheres and O'Neill cylinders. All the resources we need to live already exist in space - planets are neither necessary or the best option. I encourage you to read 'Mining the Sky" by John S. Lewis and 'The High Frontier' by Gerard K. O'Neill.
  • Nov 14 2012: "Can we ever colonize another planet without decimating the environment with just the microbes on our skin?"

    Yes, there will most definitely be worlds where life is so different from life on Earth (not necessarily their appearance but certainly their genetic system, aka, their DNA/RNA equivalents) that microbes from Earth won't have any effect on the indigenous life and vice versa, in fact I expect this to be the norm. Another possible threat could be Earth bacteria colonizing other worlds when they are more suited to the local environment than the indigenous life (or vice versa), but again this seems unlikely.
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    Nov 13 2012: For this alien environment, those microbes would be just add-ons of the real threat: Us!
  • Nov 13 2012: Actually, "decimating" the environment with Earth microbes and macrobes would be desirable.
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    Nov 13 2012: Life can survive in very extreme environments like deep ocean or permafrost, stay dormant for centuries, and is very adaptive. So this is indeed a concern, and Space agencies have courses and programs about Planetary Protection for the solar system exploration.

    If earth-life was to be introduced in a favorable environment, it would quickly colonize it completely. If a local alien-life form is already present, I guess both would be concurrent and enter in conflict for the full control of all the possible niches. Maybe some symbiosis or mutual collaboration in life forms could also exist, but they would probably be too alien to each other. Imagine an alien life form that would eradicate all our plants : a lots of species would disappear within months.

    So, life is quite a dangerous and invading thing, when you think about it...