Human waste on Mars poses risks for future missions

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Human waste on Mars poses risks for future missions

Since the early 1960s, more than forty space probes, orbiters, landers and rovers have been sent to Mars. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has at least 18 man-made objects deployed on the red planet during 14 different missions. Many of these missions have not yet been completed. However, this exploration of the surface of Mars left several pieces of debris there.

An astronaut on the planet Mars

NASA confirmed in mid-August 2022 that the Mars rover Perseverance noticed a tangled net when it landed. This isn’t the first trash spotted on Mars. Currently, scientists count approximately 7,000 kg of human waste on this planet. These residues mainly come from discarded hardware, inactive and crashed spacecraft.

To carry out the missions towards the surface of this planet, spaceships need module that protect it. This module is composed of a heat shield, allowing the machine to pass through the atmosphere. A parachute and landing gear allow him to land gently.

Some of the trash on Mars was intentional

The aircraft drops pieces of the module during its descent. These pieces are often found in separate places. They break into small pieces when they crash to the ground. Then the wind scatters them. On June 13, 2022, the Perseverance rover, for example, detected a large bright thermal blanket stuck in rocks 2 km from where it landed.

The surface of Mars is home to nine inactive spacecraft, most of which are intact. They are considered as historical relics. However, some of them left quite a bit of debris strewn about. Part of Curiosity’s wheels, for example, came off. The wind must then have dispersed it. Moreover, some of this waste are intentional. Perseverance dropped a drill bit on the surface in July 2021 so it could continue its mission with a new drill bit.

The descent is the most difficult part of the landing. At least two spacecraft crashed, and four others lost contact before or shortly after landing. These crushed machines and their parts are among the most important human waste.

These debris have an important place in history

Currently, there are approximately 7,119 kg of human waste on Mars. These wastes could represent risks for current and future missions. Thus, the Perseverance teams record and check all the residues they come across to avoid compromising the samples collected.

NASA engineers also looked into whether Perseverance could become entangled in debris from the landing, but concluded the risk was low. The importance of this debris on Mars comes from its place in history. Spaceships and their parts represent the first landmarks of the exploration of the red planet by Man.


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