Trundling across the surface of Mars as you read this is a remarkable machine. Perseverance – the car-sized rover that safely touched down on the Martian surface on 18 February this year – might only have a top speed of less than 0.1 miles per hour (152m/hr), but it carries a wide range of tools, instruments, and experiments that have already made some groundbreaking achievements.
Included on board the 10ft-long (3m) rover is a machine that has turned the thin, carbon dioxide-rich Martian air into oxygen and a helicopter the size of a tissue box that made the first-ever powered, controlled flight on another planet. The helicopter, called Ingenuity, has now made three successful flights, each longer and higher than the last.
But did anything else come along for a ride with all this hardware? Could a trace bacterium or spore from Earth have accidentally been carried into space and survived the trip to make its new home on Mars?
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