Let's look for life on Mars before it's too late


The magazine Astrobiology publishes a work led by researchers from the Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA) in which there is a need to search for life on Mars before the human being sets the foot for the first time on its surface and contaminate it irremediably.

The UN Outer Space Treaty stipulates what it is known as "Planetary Protection". The objective is to avoid both the interference of the terrestrial biosphere with other possible biospheres, as well as the possibility that in the future we will "find" life on other planets that, in fact, have traveled aboard ships sent from Earth. div>

In the case of Mars, certain areas of the planet have been labeled " Special Regions ", defined as the places where terrestrial microorganisms could replicate, or that could even be inhabited at present by Martian life. To allow missions from the Earth to approach these zones, the Planetary Protection protocols require that the robots meet cleaning requirements that are so strict that they are actually preventing any strategy to search for life.

The biggest problem with this situation is that time is running out to search for life on Mars. And this is so because in the moment in which the human being sets foot on the Red Planet, the policies of Planetary Protection, as we conceive them today, will no longer be valid, since human microbial contamination will be inevitable.

It is necessary, therefore, to explore Mars in depth from a point of view astrobiological, and it is essential to do it now. The policies of Planetary Protection should boost the exploration of Mars, not limit it or even prohibit it. The alternative of waiting until we see traces of astronauts on Martian soil will eliminate any chance of identifying genuine life on Mars in the future.

Figure: outline of the main events evolutionary aspects of life on Earth, compared to a possible biological history of Mars. © A. G. Fairén et al., 2017.


Fuente: UCC-CAB

Fecha: 2017-09-12


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