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In the simplest terms: Don’t litter


How to keep humans from ruining the search for life on Mars

moncler outlet sale T he Okarian rover was in trouble. The yellow Humvee was making slow progress across a frigid, otherworldly landscape when planetary scientist Pascal Lee felt the rover tilt backward. Out the windshield, Lee, director of NASA’s Haughton Mars Project, saw only sky. The rear treads had broken through moncler sale outlet a crack in the sea ice and were sinking into the cold water. moncler outlet sale

moncler outlet uk True, there are, but not that much. Lee cheap moncler coats and his crew were driving the Okarian (named for the yellow Martians in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel The Warlord of Mars) across the Canadian Arctic to a research station in moncler outlet online Haughton Crater that served in this dress rehearsal as a future Mars post. On a monlcer down jackets 496 kilometer road trip along the Northwest Passage, crew members pretended they were explorers on a long haul across moncler outlet the Red Planet to test what to expect if and when humans go to Mars. moncler outlet uk

cheap moncler jackets sale What they learned in that April 2009 ride may become relevant sooner rather than later. NASA has declared its intention to (SN Online: 5/24/16). The private sector plans to get there even earlier: In September, Elon Musk announced his aim to launch the first crewed SpaceX mission to Mars as soon as 2024. cheap moncler jackets sale

cheap moncler coats “That’s not a typo,” Musk said in Australia at an International Astronautical Congress meeting. “Although it is aspirational.” cheap moncler coats

Musk’s six year timeline has some astrobiologists in a panic. If humans arrive too soon, these researchers fear, any chance of finding evidence of life past or present on Mars may be ruined.

“It’s really urgent,” says astrobiologist Alberto Fairn of the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid and Cornell University. Humans take whole communities of microorganisms with them everywhere, spreading those bugs indiscriminately.

Planetary geologist Matthew Golombek of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., agrees, adding, “If you want to know if life exists there now, you kind of have to approach that question before you send people.”

A long simmering debate over how rigorously to protect other planets from Earth life, and how best to protect life on Earth from other planets, is coming to a boil. The prospect of humans arriving on Mars has triggered a flurry of meetings and a spike in research into what “planetary protection” really means.

One of the big questions is whether Mars has regions that might be suitable for life and so deserve special protection. Another is how big a threat Earth microbes might be to potential Martian life (recent studies hint less of a threat than expected). That’s so if scientists discover a sign of life on Mars, they’ll know the life did not just hitchhike from Cape Canaveral. The effort is also intended moncler sale to prevent the introduction of harmful Earth life that could kill off any Martians, similar to how invasive species edge native organisms out of Earth’s habitats.

cheap moncler jackets “If we send Earth organisms to a place where they can grow and thrive, then we might come back and find nothing but Earth organisms, even though there were Mars organisms there before,” says astrobiologist John Rummel of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. “That’s bad for science; it’s bad for the Martians. We’d be real sad about that.” cheap moncler jackets

moncler outlet jackets To avoid that scenario, spacefaring organizations have historically agreed to keep spacecraft clean. Governments and private companies alike abide by Article IX of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which calls for planetary exploration to avoid contaminating both the visited environment and Earth. In the simplest terms: Don’t litter, and wipe your feet before coming back into the house. moncler outlet jackets

cheap moncler But this guiding principle doesn’t tell engineers how to avoid contamination. So moncler mens jackets the international Committee on Space Research (called COSPAR) has debated and refined the details of a planetary protection policy that meets the treaty’s requirement ever since. The most recent version dates from 2015 and has a page of guidelines for human missions. cheap moncler

In the last few years, the international space community has started to add a quantitative component to the rules for humans specifying how thoroughly to clean spacecraft before launch, for instance, or how many microbes are allowed to escape from human quarters.

moncler outlet store “It was clear to everybody that we need more refined technical requirements, not just guidelines,” says Gerhard Kminek, planetary protection officer for the European Space Agency and chair of COSPAR’s planetary protection panel, which sets the standards. And right now, he says, “we don’t know enough to do a good job.” moncler outlet store

moncler jacket sale In March 2015, more than moncler outlet sale 100 cheap moncler outlet astronomers, biologists and engineers met at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and listed 25 “knowledge gaps” that need more research before quantitative rules can be written. moncler jacket sale

moncler factory outlet The gaps cover three categories: monitoring astronauts’ microbes, minimizing contamination and understanding how matter naturally travels around Mars. Rather than prevent contamination probably impossible the goal is to assess the risks and decide what risks are acceptable. COSPAR prioritized the gaps in cheap moncler sale October 2016 and will meet again in Houston in February to decide what specific experiments should cheap moncler be done. moncler factory outlet

Contamination questionsScientists met in 2015 to identify knowledge gaps that need to be filled before human boots on Mars will be safe for potential Martian life and for humans themselves. The gaps include:How do microbes respond to spaceflight and relocation, moncler outlet store and do genetic changes occur in the organisms that could be passed to future generations?What microbes should be monitored and how should a Mars crew do so?How can a crew prevent contamination?How can a microbial infection on Mars be diagnosed and treated?When should cheap moncler jackets an astronaut be quarantined or not allowed to return to Earth?Controlling contamination

Do longer stays on Mars (500 days versus 30 days) mean more contamination, and do they require different planetary protection requirements than shorter stays?Do astronauts need protocols for verifying what microbes have escaped the spacecraft?What decontamination procedures are needed for inside and outside the spacecraft?What quarantine facilities are needed? How will scientists recognize special regions if they exist?What research is needed to plan and design resource extraction systems?What type of wastes can be intentionally left behind on Mars?What factors need to be considered to design extravehicular activity suits?

cheap moncler outlet Natural transport of contamination cheap moncler outlet

How well can microbes survive Moncler Outlet, grow and evolve in Mars environments?What happens to windblown dust on Mars?Could dust storms carry microbes from a lifeless region to a special region?Considering many pathways, how likely are humans to transport hardy Earth microbes to Mars?What will leak or vent out of pressurized containers or human facilities?How will scientists study microorganisms that can’t be cultivated using current techniques?How far will microbes travel from human landing and habitation sites?What is the risk of humans contaminating subsurface resources, such as underground ice?

moncler sale Stick the landingThe steps required for any future Mars mission will depend on the landing spot. COSPAR currently says that robotic missions are allowed to visit “special regions” on Mars, defined as places where terrestrial organisms are likely to replicate, only if robots are cleaned before launch to 0.03 bacterial spores per square meter of spacecraft. In contrast, a robot going to a nonspecial region is allowed to bring 300 spores per square meter. These “spores,” or endospores, are dormant bacterial cells that can survive environmental stresses that would normally kill the organism. moncler sale

moncler sale outlet To date, any special regions are hypothetical, because none have been conclusively identified on Mars. But if a spacecraft finds that its location unexpectedly meets the special criteria, its mission might have to change on the spot. moncler sale outlet

The Viking landers, which in 1976 to look for living creatures on Mars, were baked in an oven for hours before launch to clean the craft to special region standards.

moncler jackets outlet “If you’re as clean as Viking, you can go anywhere on Mars,” says NASA planetary protection officer Catharine Conley. But no mission since, from the Pathfinder mission in the 1990s to the current Curiosity rover to the upcoming Mars 2020 and ExoMars rovers, has been cleared to access potentially special regions. That’s partly because of cost. A 2006 study by engineer Sarah Gavit of the Jet Propulsion Lab found that sterilizing a rover like Spirit or Opportunity (both launched in 2003) to Viking levels would cost up to 14 percent more than sterilizing it to a lower level. NASA has also backed away from looking for life after Viking’s search for Martian microbes. The agency shifted focus to seeking signs of past habitability. moncler jackets outlet

moncler outlet Although no place on Mars currently meets the special region criteria, some areas have conditions close enough to be treated with caution. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz., and colleagues discovered what looked like that appeared and disappeared in Gale Crater, where Curiosity is roving. Although those streaks were not declared special regions, the Curiosity team steered the rover clear of the area moncler outlet.


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