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."
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