Fears over Nasa’s plan to bring back samples from Mars that ‘could release extraterrestrial viruses’

A NASA plan to bring Earth back from the surface of Mars has sparked fears the mission could unleash alien microbes on Earth.

The Perseverance rover, which landed on the red planet last year, will collect pristine samples of Martian rock from Jezero Crater.

NASA's Perseverance rover is on a mission to collect samples of Martian rocks for return to Earth


NASA’s Perseverance rover is on a mission to collect samples of Martian rocks for return to EarthPhoto credit: Getty

It will package them in titanium tubes, which will be returned to Earth by a separate spacecraft by 2033.

The mission promises to revolutionize our understanding of Martian soil by giving scientists the opportunity to study it in the flesh.

However, fears have been raised that the alien microbes stored in the samples could pose a threat to our planet.

In May, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory — which is spearheading the mission — made its first public presentation of the plans.

“We believe this is the next logical step in our quest to eventually land humans on the surface of Mars,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, an astrophysicist and chief scientist at NASA The Colombian.

The samples collected by Perseverance “are viewed as the best opportunity to uncover the early evolution of Mars, including the potential” for life, Zurbuchen added.

However, some members of the public are concerned that microbes or other living beings stored in the samples could pose a biological hazard.

Public comments on NASA’s first presentation – some from people posing as scientists and doctors –

One commenter said that samples “should be examined off-world and remotely due to the risk of planetary contamination. Even if the risk is minimal, nothing should be returned to Earth above a 0 percent probability.”

Another wrote: “NASA should NOT be bringing back samples from Mars until we know more about how these samples will affect our safety on this planet. First test for possible bacteria that will affect our health.”

Many experts are concerned about the risk of earth microbes contaminating other worlds during space exploration.

But there are also concerns about extraterrestrial bacteria or viruses accidentally picked up from the surface of planets invading Earth.

Such pathogens are likely hardy survivors, more than capable of surviving a long flight through space to our planet.

Should they turn out to be contagious to humans – which is by all reports a long shot – our immune systems could be powerless against them.

However, most scientists believe that the possibility of a malevolent tribe landing on Earth is extremely unlikely, making the mission worth the risk.

Perseverance, NASA’s newest Mars rover, landed in February 2021 on the planet’s Jezero Crater — the site of an ancient lake.

It’s on a mission to look for signs of ancient microbial life.

Its tower-mounted scientific instruments are capable of determining chemical and mineral composition and searching for organic material.

The rover will also better characterize the planet’s geological processes.

It uses a drill and a hollow core bit at the end of its 7-foot-long (2-meter-long) robotic arm to take samples a little thicker than a pencil.

Samples are kept in special containers under his abdomen.

Nasa plans a mission to bring about 30 samples back to Earth in the 2030s, where scientists can perform more detailed analysis that could confirm microbial life existed.

Perseverance collected its first soil sample from Mars in September 2021. It carries 43 sample tubes for a return trip to Earth.

In May, the car-sized robot reached an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater where evidence of past life may be hidden.

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