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Copyright (c) 2007 Georgia Law Review Association, Inc.
Georgia Law Review

NOTE: UNEARTHLY MICROBES AND THE LAWS DESIGNED TO RESIST THEM

Summer, 2007

41 Ga. L. Rev. 1355

Author

Jeb Butler

Excerpt



I. Introduction



Dr. John D. Rummel, a sane and intelligent man, takes his job of protecting Earth from space aliens very seriously. 1 And that is only half of his job. An employee of NASA, Dr. Rummel's first duty is to ensure that extraterrestrial microbes, 2 if they exist, do not enter Earth's atmosphere by latching onto spacecraft destined to return to our planet. 3 His second duty is to prevent Earthly microbes from hitching rides aboard spacecraft bound for other planets. 4 Dr. Rummel's job title is "Planetary Protection Officer," and the scope of his task is as broad as our knowledge of the cosmos. 5



The arrival of microbes from one planet on the surface of another could be bad for two principal reasons. First, if microorganisms from another planet arrived on Earth, they could create the same problems that invasive species cause when they arrive on new continents. 6 The extraterrestrial microbes could multiply prodigiously in the absence of the factors that kept their population in check on the planet from which they came, and the microbes could disrupt the ecological balance of Earth. 7 That ecological disruption could conceivably involve Homo sapiens, one species about which policymakers are consistently concerned. 8



Second, if the biological contamination involved shipping microorganisms from Earth to a new planet, that planet could lose much of its scientific value as a world wholly unaffected by Earth life. 9 Once tainted by life from ...
 
 
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