Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sterilizing Mars spacecraft is largely a waste of money, two experts argue

Date:
June 27, 2013
Source:
Washington State University
Summary:
Two university researchers say environmental restrictions have become unnecessarily restrictive and expensive -- on Mars.

Two university researchers say environmental restrictions have become unnecessarily restrictive and expensive -- on Mars.

Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, astrobiologists Alberto Fairén of Cornell University and Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Washington State University say the NASA Office of Planetary Protection's "detailed and expensive" efforts to keep Earth microorganisms off Mars are making missions to search for life on the red planet "unviable."

The researchers claim "the protocols and policies of planetary protection are unnecessarily restricting Mars exploration and need to be revised."

The Office of Planetary Protection is like an interplanetary Environmental Protection Agency, with a mission "to minimize the biological contamination that may result from exploring the solar system."

As far as Mars is concerned, say Fairén and Schulze-Makuch, such efforts are probably in vain since "Earth life has most likely already been transferred to Mars." Meteorite impacts have had 3.8 billion years to spread Earth life forms to Mars. Several Earth spacecraft have visited Mars without undergoing the sterilization procedures now in place.

If organisms transferred to Mars over the eons failed to survive, modern organisms would likely face the same fate. If they did survive, say Fairén and Schulze-Makuch, "it is too late to protect Mars from terrestrial life, and we can safely relax the planetary protection policies."

The researchers say spacecraft looking for life on Mars should still be cleaned to some extent to avoid confusing possible Martian organisms with organisms brought from Earth. But sterilization for other missions, like orbiters and geology-oriented explorers, could be scaled back.

"As planetary exploration faces drastic budget cuts globally," they say, "it is critical to avoid unnecessary expenses and reroute the limited taxpayers' money to missions that can have the greatest impact on planetary exploration."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington State University. The original article was written by Eric Sorensen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alberto G. Fairén, Dirk Schulze-Makuch. The overprotection of Mars. Nature Geoscience, 2013; 6 (7): 510 DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1866

Cite This Page:

Washington State University. "Sterilizing Mars spacecraft is largely a waste of money, two experts argue." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130627102617.htm>.
Washington State University. (2013, June 27). Sterilizing Mars spacecraft is largely a waste of money, two experts argue. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130627102617.htm
Washington State University. "Sterilizing Mars spacecraft is largely a waste of money, two experts argue." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130627102617.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) — Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

This Week @ NASA, July 18, 2014

NASA (July 18, 2014) — Apollo 11 yesterday, Next Giant Leap tomorrow, Science instruments for Europa mission, and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
45 Years Later, Buzz Aldrin on Walking on Moon

45 Years Later, Buzz Aldrin on Walking on Moon

AP (July 18, 2014) — Forty-five years ago Sunday, Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon. Speaking at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Aldrin described what he was thinking right before the historic walk. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Orbital Cargo Ship Reaches International Space Station

Orbital Cargo Ship Reaches International Space Station

AFP (July 16, 2014) — Orbital Sciences Corporation's unmanned cargo ship arrived Wednesday at the International Space Station carrying a load of food and equipment for the six-man crew at the research outpost. Duration: 00:33 Video provided by AFP
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