Cosmic Contagion. Space Sickness. Astro-Affliction. We’re just spitballing here, but the next pandemic may need a better name than the last one considering where it is coming from. While space may be the final frontier, it isn’t without its risks. Black holes, asteroids, and maybe even a galactic empire may be small potatoes when put up next to this risk. As the world fixes its eyes on Mars, some scientists ask for caution, worried we could bring back something deadly.
NASA is already compiling mountains of data about Mars and its surface, with their rovers sending back information constantly. According to Scientific American, the mission is beginning to generate controversy as it gets closer to blending the two worlds. The Earth may get the most expensive DoorDash delivery in history in a mere few years. Ordered by NASA and the European Space Agency, a spacecraft will drop by the planet to deliver cargo containing rocks, dirt, and air from the Red Planet. Of course, it is a little more complicated than that. NASA’s current proposal features an interplanetary ferry to release a cone-shaped pod. The pod would then travel to the Earth before taking the plunge through the atmosphere and crash landing in a dry Utah lake bed. Think Apollo 13 fiery reentry without the parachutes.
If all of this sounds as cool to you as it does to us, it’s because it is awesomely cool. However, certain space community members have posted in a public forum about the dangers of the mission. The truth is, we have no way of knowing what is on the surface of Mars until we have it in hand. Furthermore, something that may seem safe and benign in that atmosphere may turn deadly in ours.
This is something the comment section echoes in the forum. One person commented plainly and calmly, “Please do not bring unsterilized items onto our planet. Please keep us safe.” While another has a little more fire in its tone, “Are you out of your minds? Not just no, but hell no.” The comment section in the forum contains 170 comments with a wide variety of feelings and suggestions. One of them being that all items should be tested in the atmosphere before coming to Earth. However, one scientist believes all of this concern is pointless.
According to The Byte, Prominent astrobiologist, Steve Benner ensures all of us that the mission is safe. “In the over 3.5 billion years since life appeared on Earth, trillions of other rocks have made similar journeys,” he said. The planet is constantly pummelled by asteroids that send debris from Mars into space, and it eventually makes its way to our lovely home. Because of this, if there is something deadly that could drastically impact life on Earth, it has already happened. Therefore, a pod carrying more of the same shouldn’t be a concern.
Even with that kind of scientific reassurance, NASA doesn’t leave anything to chance. They currently plan to set up their research station near the landing site of the pod to examine all contents in a remote area of Utah. So in the unlikely event of a Martian Malady, it will be isolated out in the desert. Regardless of the controversy online, the United States Space Agency is streaming full-steam ahead with its plans to test Mars.