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Man in Black: NASA's Alien huntsman

Only one man protects our planet against extraterrestrial life forms. And he is really busy indeed.



John Rummels business card
Picture by John Rummel/NASA

When Dr. John Rummel poses for the photographer and with raised hand symbolically stops alleged aliens, he is almost mistaken as Alien huntsman Tommy Lee Jones in "Men in Black". However on Rummel's business card one does not find the insignificant token "MIB", but instead it says "Planetary Protection Officer". And if aliens comprehend English, it is surely the first thing to impress them.

Dr. Rummel was hired by NASA, in order to protect the earth against extraterrestrial life-forms. Not so much against green manikins and galactic giant slime octopuses, but if those would suddenly visit us, he would certainly be a part of the salutatory committee.

John Rummel in front of the space center
Picture by John Rummel/NASA

What the NASA researcher is really on the look-out for, are micro organisms – exotic, extraterrestrial midget organisms, which could make it up to the earth when on the suit of an astronaut or piggyback on a comet. And then they would not only cause bright enthusiasm, rather we would finally know that we are not alone in the universe. Such a mini Alien could also mean an enormous menace for us. In particular at the moment when he attacks terrestrial life becomes able to spread fast and adapt easily. How dangerous that is, one already sees in case of AIDS-, Ebola or bird flu viruses.

Although there are not even safe proofs for extraterrestrial life, Alien policeman Rummel has a lot to do. On the one hand he controls that current NASA missions like the Rover "Spirit" and "Opportunity" do not bring earth germs to our neighbor planets. On the other hand one should not forget that solely from Mars about 40 Kilos mini meteorite rocks crackle down to earth annually. In the rubble they already found tiny particles, which could be fossil bacteria.

In the course of President Bush's recent space initiative for the manned investigation of our solar system, there should start a mission to Mars in the following years, which brings back samples of rocks to the earth. Dr. John Rummel in the interview: "On the search for extraterrestrial life we can make tests down here, which with our rovers and the unfortunately failed European robot ' Beagle 2 ' are not possible on Mars. Nevertheless the collection of such a sample from our neighbor planet is not only connected with the biological risk already mentioned, but also it is technically extremely demanding. As a result we had to postpone the start of the project for years."

Barry DiGregorio and Gilbert Levine with colleague
Picture by Barry DiGregorio

It is called a Russian Roulette by the expert-front, which built in the USA. Among them Dr. Gilbert Levin, who was entrusted with the evaluation of the Viking Mars missions of 1976 and the New York science journalist Barry DiGregorio: "On earth one would have to treat such a Mars sample at least like a raw egg filled with Anthrax or Ebola viruses. Perhaps it is harmless, but it is not to be simply excluded that it contains unknown, dangerous bacteria. For investigation one would have to build an expensive high safety laboratory for billions of dollar. But nobody wants to hear anything about that at NASA. Because after the moon missions, they have set up alleged quarantine containers from Apollo astronauts, just to run a show for the media either... "

Alien huntsman Dr. John Rummel has already enough work without real Aliens. But maybe he is at least able to still experience the day, when NASA starts up his one-man job to a complete department like the one in "Men in Black".


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© A report by Tobias Micke (08-02-04) – Contact