Keeping life on Earth off the red planet
Contract services laboratory RSSL Pharma is playing a crucial role in reducing the risk of the accidental transfer of life on Earth to Mars.
Contract services laboratory RSSL Pharma is playing a crucial role in reducing the risk of the accidental transfer of life on Earth to Mars. RSSL Pharma's microbiologists are working with a project team from the Open University to provide independent monitoring of the aseptic assembly facility that will be used to assemble Beagle 2, the lander of the European Space Agency Mars Express mission. Beagle 2 will land on Mars at the end of December 2003 to search for the chemical residues that would be evidence of life on the planet.
Most satellites are constructed in class 100,000 cleanrooms, but to meet the stringent needs imposed by the scientific goals of Beagle 2, the cleanroom must meet ISO Class 1 standard.
For RSSL Pharma's microbiologists – more used to analysing for spoilage organisms – it was a job they couldn't resist. 'It isn't every day you get a call from an Interplanetary Protection Officer asking you to help,' explains Dr Graham Pettipher. As well as making their routine inspection of the cleanrooms, RSSL has also trained members of the Beagle 2 project in the sampling techniques.