What human waste is currently on Mars?

After 50 years of research, humans have left thousands of kilos of debris on Mars. These are the consequences.

Space exploration generates euphoria. It is almost natural: when information arrives about new discoveries on other planets, or the most recent images from the James Webb Telescope, the immediate reaction is to see what it is. Although the advancement of science depends on us sending devices to other worlds, this human activity it is already leaving garbage on the surface of Mars.

Astronomers are concerned that debris that has accumulated on the Martian surface interfere with future research. Wreckage from human spacecraft, bits of modules, and burnt junk don’t just orbit the Earth. On the contrary, they have already reached the red planet. These may be the consequences.

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Human beings pollute the planets we touch

The Perseverance rover encountered this piece of web on July 12, 2022, more than a year after landing on Mars. | Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The concern is not trivial. In fact, the possibility that human debris on Mars create difficulties for future space missions is becoming more real. More than anything, because recovering the garbage is not only expensive, but it doesn’t really contribute anything to scientific research on other planets. Without more, the researchers prefer to leave their waste on the surface —possibly for several centuries to come.

Postdoctoral researcher at United Nations Office for Outer Space AffairsCagri Kilich, identifies tThree main sources of human contamination on the Martian surface:

  • discarded hardware
  • idle spaceships
  • Spaceship that crashed on the surface

Above all, explains the specialist for The Conversation, because “every mission to the Martian surface requires a module that protects the spacecraft.” All this equipment stays there, on the arid soil of the Red Planet, without anyone picking it up. Spaceship parts are left scattered on the surface, usually breaking into smaller pieces.

This was the case with Perseverance, the rover that stars in NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. Until nowafter a year of landing, the device has only found silence over our neighboring planet. Still, Kilich explains, “andThese small pieces can be blown away by Martian winds.” And the contamination spreads.

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Why does pollution matter on Mars?

After years of walking on the Jezero Crater, Curiosity’s wheels have been damaged. In its wake, the rover has left tiny bits of aluminum on the Martian surface. These fragments add to the kilos of human waste that have been left on Mars. Although they seem trifles, our pollution on other planets They are already causing problems.

“Today, explain Kilich, «Scientists’ main concern about debris on Mars is the risk it poses to current and future missions.”

Curiosity is not the only one that has left garbage on Mars. In contrast, the Perseverance rover has documented several cases of rubble that have been abandoned on the surface of the Red Planet. Now, researchers are concerned that these remains are contaminating the samples – once pristine – that the mission will bring back to Earth.

Although, in principle, this debris has contributed to all our knowledge of Mars, today human debris are already meddling with contemporary research. The researchers acknowledge that the risk of sample contamination is low. For Kilich, “debris on Mars is important because of its place in history.” Therefore, says the author, «are the first milestones for human planetary exploration

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