43 metal tubes stored in the belly of NASA’s Persevering Rover are designed to transport the first samples from Mars to Earth.
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“We’re hoping that samples from Mars will provide new insights for decades to come as we study them with the latest laboratory tools that we couldn’t get to Mars properly. Now,” says Lori Glaze, director of planetary science at NASA.
But while many researchers see the opportunity to analyze rocks from the surface of Mars a tremendous advance of science, some have expressed their concerns that microscopic life forms from the red planet could spread a deadly plague that humanity was not equipped to deal with.
The International Committee Against Mars Sample Returns (ICAMSR), a small group of scientists who have issued a warning note against any potential return missions.
Barry Degregorio, chair of the committee, says any sample should only be brought to the moon, where potential pathogens can be identified and isolated.
He says samples taken from Mars should be analyzed at the proposed Lunar Gateway space station, where they can be analyzed at a safe distance without the risk of launching a possible alien infection from which we have no immunity.
“This is the only way to ensure that the Earth’s biosphere is 100% protected,” says DeGregorio.
And he quotes the famous astronomer Carl Sagan, who wrote in 1973: “Because Mars in particular is an environment of potentially great biological importance, pathogens and organisms that, if transported to the Earth’s environment, could exist on Mars. Cause damage … the Mars epidemic. “
The current plan is to collect persistence tube samples for a mission to launch in 2026. “Perseverance is the first stage of the first round-trip journey to another planet,” says Wanda Peters of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
The samples will be launched toward Earth for crashing in the Utah desert within ten years. But even though the return compartment is designed to withstand massive shocks, things could go wrong.
In 2004, the return stage of NASA’s Genesis probe, designed to collect samples of solar wind particles and return them to Earth for analysis, opened when it collided with the Utah desert because its parachute did not open.
But there may be an alternative: “Leaving orbiting samples in a stable Mars orbit is one of the many alternative strategies that could be launched after the samples are launched from the surface of Mars,” according to a report by the European Space Agency.
“Returning virgin samples from Mars to Earth has been a goal of generations of planetary scientists,” says NASA.
But Dr. Gilbert Levine, the engineer who investigated the Vikings landing mission for NASA, said: “I fear that even if a safe return container can be made from Mars and brought to Earth, there is a great possibility. Part of the sample leaks out From the “safe” laboratory where the container will be opened.
The He told the Daily Star There is a “real possibility” of microorganisms on the red planet, and he said that bringing these small organisms to Earth could cause a devastating pandemic.