INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE AGAINST SENDING MARS SAMPLES DIRECTLY TO EARTH
During the next decade, NASA will begin Phase One of its
Mars Sample Return mission to gather samples from the surface
of Mars for return to the Earth. We the undersigned, find this
concept is an unacceptable risk to Earth's biosphere in
light of peer reviewed scientific documentation that supports
the possibility that microbial life was found on Mars 25 years
ago by the Viking Lander 1 and 2 spacecraft. Also, evidence for
indigenous fossilized microbes in meteorites from Mars has been
documented. If there is microbial life on Mars as some data suggests,
then that life needs to be characterized and studied with great
caution on the surface of Mars before we return it to Earth.
Furthermore, because of the 1999 loss of both Mars Climate Orbiter
and the Mars Polar Lander spacecraft, which were both found to
be due to human error, we demand that the expensive and risky
Mars Sample Return project be postponed until the following four-step
plan is implemented by NASA and other participating space faring nations:
Phase 1) Increase the number of life sciences landers going to
Mars and land them in different geographical locations. These landers
will carry out in-situ testing of the Martian surface/subsurface to
narrow the probability range of any life detected in the samples;
a) define the environmental envelope for growth and survival of any
life detected. Also, this phase would also test inhibitory agents
for effectiveness on any life found.
Phase 2) A second series of tests will be conducted in Martian
orbit aboard a newly designed automated life sciences laboratory
for the purpose to determine any interactions between Martian
microorganisms and selected terrestrial ecosystems.
Phase 3) After numerous robotic spacecraft have conducted their
life sciences survey of the surface of Mars in many different
locations, the cautious return of samples to the vicinity of
the Earth may proceed. Upon achieving Earth orbit, the Mars Sample
canister status would be evaluated by a qualified Biohazard Reentry
Team aboard a vehicle like SpaceHab or the International Space
Station. Preliminary quarantine tests would be conducted in Earth orbit
before transfer to the Earth's surface.
Phase 4) Once phases 1-3 have been carried out, the Mars Sample
Return canister with samples inside would be transferred to the
Earth's surface to be analyzed in a high security Level 4 Planetary
Sample receiving Laboratory.
We believe these findings fully warrant the position conveyed to
NASA by the Center For Disease Control and the National Research
Council, that any Martian soil and rock samples be treated as
"biohazardous" materials until proven otherwise.
We, the undersigned feel that before transferring any Martian
soil and/or rock samples to Earth, that a life sciences survey of
the Martian surface/subsurface must be conducted in various locations.
Then if the return of samples is warranted and brought within the
vicinity of Earth, they should first be examined and certified
"biosphere safe" by competent scientists aboard the Space
Shuttle, International Space Station, or on another Earth orbiting
facility designed, equipped and staffed to handle and study biohazardous
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