NASA Perseverance rover's pictures raise question: Can humanity be trusted with other planets?

Written By: Moohita Kaur Garg
New Delhi, India Updated: Jun 17, 2022, 12:05 AM(IST)

At first glance, it may seem like a discarded packet of chips, so you may not think much of it, since it is only one piece of debris. However, the image has reignited concerns that space exploration risks 'contaminating' pristine other worlds and environments. (Image courtesy: NASAPersevere/Twitter) Photograph:( Twitter )

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Should humanity at a time when we can barely control the pollution on our own planet, be trusted with alien planets? 

The fascination we humans have had with the universe has been around for centuries and will continue to exist in the future. In our search for life outside of Earth, we have ventured to other planets. It is without a doubt fascinating to inquire about other planets, but can we be trusted to take care of them??

Look at the state humanity has landed Earth in. Our planet is suffering. Pollution is at an all-time high, climate change is a reality, and global warming is already making all life forms suffer. Are we taking action to save our planet? Yes. But, is it enough? No, the pace is too slow.

Also read | A dead star is ripping apart its planets in 'cosmic cannibalism'

Should humanity at a time when we can barely control the pollution on our own planet, be trusted with alien planets? The answer is no.

Recently, NASA's Perseverance rover, which is currently on the red planet has shared images that show the starting of plausible destruction our actions can cause on the red planet.

It has beamed back pictures of a piece of debris, stuck between martian rocks, the result of a robotic craft touchdown last year in February.

At first glance, it may seem like a discarded packet of chips, so you may not think much of it, since it is only one piece of debris. 

Watch | Is an alien looking at us from Mars?

However, the image has reignited concerns that space exploration risks 'contaminating' pristine other worlds and environments.

Tweeting about the debris, the Perseverance Twitter account reported “my team has spotted something unexpected: It’s a piece of a thermal blanket that they think may have come from my descent stage, the rocket-powered jet pack that set me down on landing day back in 2021.” 

“That shiny bit of foil is part of a thermal blanket – a material used to control temperatures. It’s a surprise finding this here: My descent stage crashed about 2 km away. Did this piece land here after that, or was it blown here by the wind?,” it adds.

Also read | Scientists find multiplanet system that hosts two Earth-type planets just 33 light years away

As per the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, under international law, it is an obligation to avoid harmful contamination of outer space, the moon and other celestial bodies. Professor Andrew Coates, a space scientist at UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, while talking to the Guardian said that the risk of contamination is low given that all equipment is sterilised before it travels to Mars.

However, the image begs the question: Are we human scientists up to the task of preserving other planets and not soiling them as we have our own planet Earth? 

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