Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dangers On Mars Require Extensive Evaluation Before Human Exploration Could Proceed

Date:
May 6, 2002
Source:
National Research Council
Summary:
When NASA's Mars Pathfinder landed on the Red Planet in 1997, it released a rover that monitored the landscape, recorded weather conditions, and broadcast pictures of the surface to Earth. Presently, there is no official date or funding for a human mission to Mars, but the knowledge gained from the Pathfinder and other missions would contribute to plans for eventual human exploration of the planet. Before astronauts can take the first steps on Mars, however, much research needs to be done to guide mission planners and hardware designers. A new report from the National Academies' National Research Council outlines the environmental, chemical, and biological hazards that NASA needs to assess before sending a human mission to Mars.

When NASA's Mars Pathfinder landed on the Red Planet in 1997, it released a rover that monitored the landscape, recorded weather conditions, and broadcast pictures of the surface to Earth. Presently, there is no official date or funding for a human mission to Mars, but the knowledge gained from the Pathfinder and other missions would contribute to plans for eventual human exploration of the planet. Before astronauts can take the first steps on Mars, however, much research needs to be done to guide mission planners and hardware designers. A new report from the National Academies' National Research Council outlines the environmental, chemical, and biological hazards that NASA needs to assess before sending a human mission to Mars.

The agency's robotic engineering and design program should be expanded to develop larger rovers specifically for human use in exploration and surface transport, the report says. To ensure a safe landing and to aid rover and human movement on the planet, NASA should develop an accurate high-resolution, three-dimensional map of the terrain that would be explored, and assess the land's makeup to determine its strength and stability. In addition, when a spacecraft lands on Mars, soil and dust might be brought in through the air lock, which occurred during the Apollo missions to the moon. Potential contamination of the astronaut habitat while on the martian surface could pose a health hazard to the crew. For example, dust could contain high concentrations of sulfur and chlorine, compounds that could degrade human lung tissue if inhaled and corrode equipment.

There is also uncertainty as to the quantity of toxic metals, such as hexavalent chromium, in the soil. While small amounts of these metals may not affect the astronauts immediately, they could have long-term effects, such as cancer. Robotic sampling of soil and airborne dust could determine the presence and extent of any harmful organisms or compounds. If certain experiments, such as testing for chromium, cannot be conducted on the Mars surface, a sample must be returned to the Earth for evaluation.

Although chances are slim that life exists on the planet, NASA must identify zones of minimal biologic risk to humans through unmanned missions, using organic carbon detection techniques or by analyzing a sample returned to Earth. At the same time, NASA needs to implement a series of safeguards to protect the Earth from potential contamination when the missions return from space.

NASA and its international partners plan to send data-gathering robotic missions to Mars every two years until 2011 to study the environment, climate, and geology, and to determine if life ever arose on the planet.

This study was requested and funded by NASA. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice under a congressional charter. A committee roster follows.

The report Safe on Mars: Precursor Measurements Necessary to Support Human Operations on the Martian Surface is available on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Research Council. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Research Council. "Dangers On Mars Require Extensive Evaluation Before Human Exploration Could Proceed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 May 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020506075102.htm>.
National Research Council. (2002, May 6). Dangers On Mars Require Extensive Evaluation Before Human Exploration Could Proceed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020506075102.htm
National Research Council. "Dangers On Mars Require Extensive Evaluation Before Human Exploration Could Proceed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/05/020506075102.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

AP (July 30, 2014) Arianespace launched a rocket Tuesday from French Guiana carrying a robotic cargo ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA EDGE: OCO-2 Launch

NASA EDGE: OCO-2 Launch

NASA (July 25, 2014) NASA EDGE webcasts live from Vandenberg AFB for the launch of the Oribiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO) launch. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins