Evidence Of Water On Mars But Rover Is Steered Away From Verifying It?
After all the searching, theorizing, dreaming of finding that all important clue for life on Mars, we stop when we find it? How absurd is that?
But wait. Things aren’t always as simple as they sound. And yes, because NASA announced they believe water is flowing on Mars at times, the whole game changes.
I think Scientific American’s Sept. 28, 2015 article says it best:
Historically, in the context of Mars such “planetary protection” has primarily concerned robotic exploration. The risk of contamination is an issue even for machines, which, unlike humans, can endure being fried with radiation and bathed in harsh chemicals prelaunch to eradicate bacterial stowaways. Microbes that stubbornly refuse to die nonetheless turn up with regularity in NASA’s supposedly sterile clean rooms for preparing interplanetary spacecraft. Apollo astronauts even found bacteria on the moon that had survived an almost total vacuum inside the robotic Surveyor 3 lander that had touched down more than two and a half years earlier. If terrestrial microbes could live in places like that, why not in some of the more habitable parts of Mars?
So there you have it. We can’t look at the water, touch it, feel it or analyze any of it until we can be certain we aren’t introducing Earthly microbes into that sample.
Regardless of which side of the argument one may be on, from a scientific point of view, how embarrassing would it be to claim we found life on Mars … just to find out it was a microbial hitchhiker that we brought to the planet ourselves.
The following article goes into more detail and is well worth the read …
This week, NASA scientists announced that they had found chemical evidence of liquid water on the surface of Mars. While they make a compelling case, the existence of seasonal rivers of briney water will never be 100 percent confirmed until we can see it and touch it and analyse it, and if it’s not actual humans on Mars doing that, we’ll have to study it vicariously through our far-flung robots.
Except we can’t. Not as long as those far-flung robots originated on Earth, anyway. Right now, NASA’s Curiosity rover is about 50 kilometres from the site that scientists suspect holds liquid Martian water, but thanks to an international treaty signed in 1967, it’s not allowed to go anywhere near it.
This is because to get where it is on the surface of Mars, Curiosity had to travel 225 million kilometres from Earth through space, and along the way it could have picked up dirt and dust and all kinds of mysterious microbes that make it far from sterile ……
…… “Because liquid water appears to be present … we have to take extra precautions to prevent contamination by Earth life,” Rich Zurek, the chief scientist for NASA’s Mars program, explained during a Reddit AMA yesterday. “Our current rovers have not been sterilised to the degree needed to go to an area where liquid water may be present.”
…… What’s the solution? We all know that NASA is planning on sending humans to Mars for the first time in mid-2030, so maybe some lucky astronauts will get to see liquid Martian water with their own eyes. Another option would be to send robots to Mars that are capable of building other robots that can investigate that water with little risk of contamination. Last year, NASA announced that it’s developing robots that can 3D-print infrastructure on Mars, so this could well be a possibility.
Until then, Curiosity and its rover buddy Opportunity will just have to revel in the ambigious state of their cleanliness, and stay the hell away from the water.
To read the full article see Science Alert