David Bowie asked the question. Last week, Barry DiGregorio looked at rover photos of the surface of Mars and decided the grooves in the surface are the same type of fossilized trails and tracks left by bacterial life forms on prehistoric Earth … and NASA is covering up this fact to protect its upcoming manned space missions to allow humans to “discover” life on Mars. Now in a new interview in the Daily Star Online he’s warning NASA – not to mention Elon Musk — that sending humans to Mars would cause the late Mr. Bowie to write a sequel to his song, calling it “Is There Death on Mars?” and the girl with the mousy hair will find out why America has a tortured brow … the life on Mars will kill us.
“Astronauts could be exposed to unknown pathogenic microbes and viruses that we have no idea how to control. That is why it is so important to fly additional life detection instruments to Mars – to make sure it is safe to send human beings or to return samples to Earth.”
Dr. DiGregorio has a point – one that NASA dealt with during the Apollo lunar missions by quarantining everything that they brought back until it was determined there was no life on the astronauts, their equipment or their rocks. Since they were only there for a short period, covered a small area and never breathed the atmosphere – what little there is – NASA felt comfortable nothing would happen to the astronauts while on the Moon. That won’t be the case on Mars and DiGregorio singles out Elon Musk first, since he seems to be leading the way to not just visiting but establishing permanent colonies on the Red Planet.
“He’s totally ignoring the fact that there could be microbial life on Mars, and as far as being a scientist goes, the one thing you want to make sure of is that your people have a degree of confidence that the surface of Mars is sterile.”
Musk might be impressed that DiGregorio thinks he’s a scientist, but he’d most likely disagree that Mars needs to be “sterile” before going there. Livable, breathable and non-fatal are probably good enough for Elon. However, DiGregorio points out another thing that has nothing to do with science.
“If you sent astronauts to Mars and they die of pathogenic diseases from indigenous microbes, you’re not going to have another mission go back there, the publicity would be terrible.”
Have humans really evolved from the days of massive Earth exploration to the point where it will not take on a non-military mission with the near-certainty that some people won’t come back? DiGregorio wants NASA to reduce that risk to near-nothing by sending more robots and autonomous exploration vehicles to Mars with the equipment onboard to find and identify life forms without the need for humans on the Martian surface.
Not everyone in the Martian exploration community believes DiGregorio’s theory that the tracks on Mars are indications of bacterial life. However, his arguments for continued robotic exploration make sense. Is a robot discovering life forms on Mars really anathema to NASA management? NASA public relations? Elon Musk?
Are they spitting in the eyes of fools as they ask us to focus on the best-selling show?