What happens when living organisms are bombarded with cosmic radiation for years on end? We don't know, unless comic books are allowed into the discussion. But an upcoming mission will put earthling microbes in the crossfire en route to Mars.
The project, New Scientist reports, is meant to simulate the theory that human live is descended from alien microbes that bounced off some other planet. So we're shooting over some bugs of our own to the Martian moon Phobos. The microscopic passengers, launched by the non-profit Planetary Society of Pasadena, will be slammed with zero gravity and radiation for the entire three-year trip. Will they survive? Will they perish? Will they mutate, turning the craft around to Earth for revenge? Will they develop sexual tension? We'll find out -- but in the meantime, let's hope the thing doesn't crash. Why? If the 10 germs get loose, it'll be nearly impossible to tell which came from Earth, and which are possibly native to Phobos, should we ever head there ourselves. So don't drop the petri dish. [New Scientist]