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Planetary protection and life on Mars


Posted on Sunday, 30 June, 2013 | Comment icon 8 comments


Image credit: NASA


 
Scientists have claimed that planetary protection policies are hindering the search for life on Mars.

Safeguards designed to stop microbes from the Earth contaminating Mars are so stringent that they are harming efforts to locate signs of life there. Scientists have called for the restrictions to the relaxed due to the severe financial burdens they impose on robotic missions. The last Mars missions to actively look for signs of life on the Red Planet were the Viking landers in the 1970s.

"If Earth micro-organisms can thrive on Mars, they almost certainly already do; and if they cannot, the transfer of Earth life to Mars should be of no concern, as it would simply not survive," said researchers Alberto Fairen and Dirk Schulze-Makuch. "We cannot see how our current program of Mars exploration might pose any real threat to a possible Martian biosphere."

"Current policies designed to safeguard Mars against biological contamination from Earth are hampering exploration of the Red Planet and should be relaxed, some scientists say."

  View: Full article |  Source: Space.com

  Discuss: View comments (8)

   


 
Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Ad hoc on 30 June, 2013, 12:01
I feel like the underlying question is: How often does material from Earth end up on Mars? Because if it's regular, then sure, sterilizing the hell out of a spacecraft when that stuff is raining down is silly. But if it's say, a couple rocks every million years... then Mars is likely to be a bacterial Galapagos island.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Timonthy on 30 June, 2013, 13:01
Yeah. Finding life on another planet in our solar system would not do it for me! Unless they could prove it unequivocally was not of the same origin as us!
Comment icon #3 Posted by ancient astronaut on 30 June, 2013, 15:14
Real-life "Prime-Directive"????
Comment icon #4 Posted by deslin on 30 June, 2013, 22:12
Contamination from Earth, huh? Translation: all those AOL CDs from the 90's lol
Comment icon #5 Posted by bigjonalien on 1 July, 2013, 0:24
everyone knows life on earth came from mars so why do we keep finding earth based microbes on mars after sterilization- der, u answer your own questions?
Comment icon #6 Posted by pallidin on 1 July, 2013, 5:12
Imagine if interplanetary probes were not "sterilized" as a function of, say, budget cuts or whatever. So, what naturally happens is that any microbial "finding" is both privately(NASA, etc) and publicly in question as to it's authenticity. Seems to me that it would be a very bad move, rendering such explorations pointless if contamination were allowed.
Comment icon #7 Posted by nothinglizx2 on 1 July, 2013, 11:48
If we plan to send people there, then there will be harder to protect Mars from Earth Microbes anyway. Since people get colds and flu's it will almost certainly end up on Mars. The question is, if we send our people there, and it turns out there are sentient beings on Mars, will our earth born virus's which we have anti-virus's for yet they may not, incidentally harm the life there. We have responsibility to the welfare of other sentient beings not to decide for them the course of their future. It must be a mutual agreement to interact. We can't just selfishly think we are... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by pallidin on 1 July, 2013, 19:32
I find that to be an acceptable premise. Of course, I'm no expert. But plausible, even if they might be extinct now. I sure hope that future Mars explorations will involve "cave mapping" and some form of investigations.
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