Mankind is taking the boldest but riskiest step in all human history – the return of samples from the surface of Mars.
There are many signs Mars has life (see the list on the Overview of Mars page on this site). (On mobile devices the menu of pages is at the upper right). If Mars bacteria is pathogenic to human, animal, plant, or microbial life on Earth, the risk of sample return cannot be quantified. Even if returned Mars life could thrive in any niche of Earth’s environment, the risk of this sample return being an invasive species is beyond computation.
Although Space Authorities will surely plan to use the highest Bio Safety Level 4 containment facility to house returned Mars samples, mistakes and accidents are always possible. Examples of mistakes and accidents in highly technical endeavors are obvious (for example, Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three Mile Island in the nuclear power industry, and Columbia and Challenger in the Space Shuttle program.) The choice mankind can make is to continue to study Mars by landing probes on the surface of Mars and NOT return samples to Earth. Even if this takes decades longer to study Mars than returning samples, what’s the rush? Especially when the safety of mankind and our one planet Earth is at risk. We are not yet through the Covid-19 Pandemic. Why risk even worse by potentially returning Mars bacteria to Earth? Do you agree that studying Mars by landing spacecraft there and NOT returning samples is a safer option?
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