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#1 2019-10-03 06:36:34

Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 4,627

Debate: Avoid Contamination of Mars or Embrace It

There are many topics already created in "Life on Mars" so I am hesitant to add a new one at this level.

However, I didn't find an already existing topic that encapsulates the debate that is reported in this piece: … 00894.html

Before we put people on Mars, we should infect the planet with Earthly microbes, a group of scientists says
By Aylin Woodward, Business Insider

I am generally in favor of collecting as much information as possible about off-Earth destinations before sending people there.

I am generally in favor of the care taken by some space agencies to try to prevent contamination of destinations with Earth-origin biology.

However, I am NOT in favor of failing to move forward with expansion of humans away from Earth because of the inevitable proliferation of Earthly microbial life after we arrive in numbers. 

The article above (as I read it) tries to summarize a vigorous academic debate underway now, in anticipation of Elon Musk's timeline for landing large numbers of people on Mars.

The time for scientists to try to collect (presumably) pristine data is BEFORE the mass landings.



#2 2019-10-03 08:22:18

Registered: 2016-11-26
Posts: 1,931

Re: Debate: Avoid Contamination of Mars or Embrace It

Mars has undoubtedly been contaminated already through volcanic ejecta and debris from past collisions with large meteors. But that was then, and this is now. We should make an effort to detect the science samples before mass inhabitation, but I'm not a planetary protection freak by any means. Mass infection with Earth microbes is ridiculous concept.


#3 2019-10-03 08:25:54

From: Logres
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,344

Re: Debate: Avoid Contamination of Mars or Embrace It

We should try and do limited terraforming with big mirrors, first. If we create more hospitable conditions, it'll make it easier to detect any life there, and for it to thrive if there is.

I'm still hoping that we'll be able to liberate enough methane to warm the planet up and get a 70mb CO2 atmosphere quickly.

"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney


#4 2019-10-03 17:18:36

From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,892

Re: Debate: Avoid Contamination of Mars or Embrace It

I agree with the thrust of the comments above. We should adopt a relatively cautious approach prior to mass migration.

The likelihood is that despite every effort by NASA some organisms did make the journey from Earth to Mars with the rover missions. They are unlikely to have survived if they are exposed to Mars conditions. In principle human missions don't need to bring any more contamination than the rover missions, though the huge tonnage involved does of course increase risks. We have to be very careful we don't in the early stages release extremophiles which could survive and perhaps prosper on Mars (perhaps they originally came from Mars and that is why they are extremophiles!). But as far as I know, you don't come across extremophiles except in some niche environments. Is that the case?

I would agree we need to get there and survey the whole planet carefully before we announce "There's no life here!". If we find life there we need to collect every form of life and ensure it survives, if necessary in the equivalent of a "zoo". It may be ultimately we develop a combined Mars-Earth flora and fauna.

I looked at the article linked to by TH.  The scientists behind the paper seem to be rather confused in my opinion.  We can survive on Mars without being out in the open! So the essential premise of their paper is wrong and irrelevant.

Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars


#5 2019-10-03 17:33:35

From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 20,830

Re: Debate: Avoid Contamination of Mars or Embrace It

As much as one might think that nothing can survive transport from earth another place we have learned that the surveyor did in the insulation of the craft have a surviving colony many many years later after exposure to the vacuum of the moon.

So if it was dangerous in the past and came to earth then we are most likely to already have an imunity to it.. With regards to earth's going to mars going rogue on a new human population. We know that even the ISS just has the same stuff as we have just a bit stronger in some ways.

So if we are that scared about it test to verify and get over it.


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