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From: jamesoberg@aol.com (JamesOberg)
Newsgroups: sci.space.science
Subject: Caution! Moon Bugs Mistake?
Date: 12 Aug 1996 19:17:25 -0400

     It is widely believed that streptococcus germs aboard Surveyor-3   
(inside the TV camera) survived their three-year lunar sojourn and were
brought back to Earth by the Apollo-12 crew.
          Leonard D. Jaffe was Surveyor project scientist and custodian of
the  Surveyor 3 parts brought back from the moon. He wrote to the
Planetary Society recently that according to report from somebody on
his staff who had witnessed the biological test which gave positive
results, a "breach of sterile procedure" took place at just the right
time to produce a false positive result. One of the implements being used
to scrape samples off the Surveyor parts was laid down on a non-sterile 
 laboratory bench, and then was used to collect surface samples for  
culturing. It was that sample set which showed the presence of the  
germs, a common human infectuous bacteria.
     
     Concluded Dr. Jaffe, "It is, therefore, quite possible that the 
microorganisms were transferred to the camera after its return to Earth,
and that they had never been to the Moon." The test, of course, could
only be performed once, and the parts were subsequently taken out of
quarantine and fully re-exposed to terrestrial conditions, so we'll never
know for sure. But it looks suspiciously like a lab error rather than a
lunar germ colony.



From: jamesoberg@aol.com (JamesOberg)
Newsgroups: sci.space.history
Subject: Re: Earth Microbes On The Moon
Date: 4 Sep 1998 21:19:02 GMT

I just talked with Leonard Jaffe, he stands by his letter in the "Planetary
Report" (Nov-Dec 1994, page 3) expressing skepticism that the microbes had ever
been to the moon. "A person on my staff witnessed the biological test that led
to the finding of terrestrial microorganisms on the camera. He reported that a
breach of sterile procedure had occurred: an implement used in the test was put
down on a nonsterile laboratory bench and then, without re-sterilization,
touched to the camera. It is, therefore, quite possible that the microorganisms
were transferred to the camera after its return to Earth, and that they had
never been to the Moon."


Newsgroups: sci.space.history
From: henry@spsystems.net (Henry Spencer)
Subject: Re: Earth Microbes On The Moon
Date: Sat, 5 Sep 1998 18:58:29 GMT

In article <1998090421190200.RAA20018@ladder01.news.aol.com>,
JamesOberg <jamesoberg@aol.com> wrote:
>I just talked with Leonard Jaffe, he stands by his letter in the "Planetary
>Report" (Nov-Dec 1994, page 3) expressing skepticism that the microbes had ever
>been to the moon. "A person on my staff witnessed the biological test that led
>to the finding of terrestrial microorganisms on the camera. He reported that a
>breach of sterile procedure had occurred...

Given how unreliable human memory is, I'm less than happy with trusting a
third-hand report nearly thirty years after the fact.

In any case, as the original report in "Analysis of Surveyor 3 material
and photographs returned by Apollo 12" made clear, there really is nothing
very remarkable about a few tough bacteria surviving in that particular
location (deep within the camera).  The one aspect of lunar conditions
that is a real problem for bacteria is high temperatures, and thermal
modelling of the camera estimated the maximum internal temperature at
70degC, which is not a big problem for bacteria.  And the Surveyors were
*not* sterilized.

>"...an implement used in the test was put
>down on a nonsterile laboratory bench and then, without re-sterilization,
>touched to the camera."

Note that there were no bacteria found on the outside of the camera, or on
the tools (which were checked, although probably before rather than after
the sampling).  The bacteria were in only one place, a nearly inaccessible
layer of foam between two circuit boards.
--
Being the last man on the Moon is a |  Henry Spencer   henry@spsystems.net
very dubious honor. -- Gene Cernan  |      (aka henry@zoo.toronto.edu)

 
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