• Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Collecting samples from Mars risks bringing a deadly alien virus to Earth. Here’s what you need to know

ByRandall B. Phelps

May 13, 2022

For years, researchers have been trying to collect samples from the surface of Mars.

Several missions are underway to collect a pristine sample from Mars, ranging from Tianwen-2 in China to NASA and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Perseverance Rover.

Strategies range from “pick up and go” from the planet’s surface to collecting dust from the atmosphere to robots collecting the much-desired samples.

However, a question arises from all this. Does this collection and transport of samples from an alien planet pose a risk to Earth?

Watch | All The Times Humanity Has Tried To Communicate With Aliens

Think of the Andromeda variety…

In case you didn’t know, “Andromeda Strain” is a movie based on a novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. It’s the story of an American research satellite that crashes into a small town, taking with it a deadly microscopic alien virus that wipes out half the population.

Now, what if this happens outside of real life? What if fiction becomes reality and we end up bringing a deadly virus back from Mars?

According to a former NASA planetary protection officer, Cassie Conley, “Since the beginning of space exploration, planetary protection has required samples from Mars to be considered ‘restricted Earth return’.”

Speaking to space.com, Colney explained that this means it “requires the strictest containment to protect both the samples and the Earth.”

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According to NASA, collecting and transporting samples is essential to answering a crucial question: did life ever exist on Mars?

NASA’s Mars Sample Return Mission (MSR) website states: “Only by bringing back the samples can we truly answer the question using the most sophisticated and advanced laboratories, in an age when future generations will be able to study them using techniques yet to be invented.”

According to her, several groups of scientific experts from the United States and around the world have studied whether samples from Mars could pose a threat to the Earth’s environment.

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The conclusions of these panels indicate that there is very little chance that materials acquired from places on Mars, such as those studied by Perseverance, could contain a biohazard for our biosphere.

Although the effort is described as “low risk”, it is wise to remember that it is not zero risk.

But there’s another possibility: Earth robots and devices may very well be carrying Earth microbes with them that can negatively affect Mars.

Is it worth it? We hope.