Mars is probably the most obvious source of inspiration for many science fiction stories. Numerous studies have been undertaken to study the red planet since the 50s. However, not a single human has yet reached the surface of the astrologically hated planet. Technological development has already begun to enable a crewed Mars mission as early as the 2030s.
Many space organizations like NASA and SpaceX Mars program, founded by Elon Musk have Mars as the central theme. Musk in particular has openly talked about his goal of enabling the colonization of Mars. To date, 18 human-made objects have been sent to the red planet which has left a considerable amount of debris out there. Even before colonization started, humans have littered Mars with 7000 Kg of Human-made Waste.
How Mars Is Littered By Humans?
Humans began to explore the red planet out of curiosity in the 1960s. Mars 1 (1962 Beta Nu 1) is an automatic interplanetary spacecraft launched to Mars on November 1, 1962. This was the first probe of the Soviet Mars probe program to achieve interplanetary orbit. As per the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, countries from around the world have sent out 18 human-made objects to the Martian land over 14 separate missions till-date.
Naturally, all these missions were bound to leave pieces of their parts behind in the pristine environment of Mangal. Recently, NASA found a small piece of foreign object debris (FOD). This was seen in a footage from the Mars helicopter’s navigation camera (Navcam) for a portion of its 33rd flight.
NASA reported that the Perseverance rover had spotted a piece of trash — a tangled mess of netting — jettisoned during its landing. However, this was hardly the first time scientists found trash on Mars. Today, the main concern scientists have about trash on the next Earth is the risk it poses to current and future missions. The Perseverance teams are documenting all debris they find and checking to see if any of it could contaminate the samples the rover is collecting.
It is obviously concerning that we have managed to spread so much garbage on another planet without even physically going there.— The Weather Channel India (@weatherindia) September 30, 2022
Scientists are also worried that the debris could contaminate samples acquired by #NASA‘s Perseverance, which is hunting for ancient life on Mars. pic.twitter.com/8xKgIEgF1I
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How Much Have Humans Littered On The Red Planet?
Cagri Kilic, a research fellow at West Virginia University who specializes in ways to track Mars and Moon rovers, recently analyzed the mass of the debris. He totaled the mass of all rovers and orbiters dispatched to the red planet and subtracted the weight of the ones currently in operation from the figure. According to his calculations, 7,119 kilograms of waste are presently strewn over the possible-next-Earth-planet.
“When you add up the mass of all spacecraft that has ever been sent to Mars, you get about 22,000 pounds (9979 kilograms),” Kilic wrote in The Conversation. “Subtract the weight of the currently operational craft on the surface – 6,306 pounds (2,860 kilograms) – and you are left with 15,694 pounds (7,119 kilograms) of human debris on Mars.”
The trash includes discarded hardware, and inactive and crashed spacecraft. Earlier in the year, on June 13, 2022, the Perseverance rover spotted a large, shiny thermal blanket wedged in some rocks 1.25 miles (2 km) from where the rover landed. Both Curiosity in 2012 and Opportunity in 2005 also came across debris from their landing vehicles.
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. pic.twitter.com/O4rIaEABLu— NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover (@NASAPersevere) June 15, 2022
The nine inactive spacecraft on the surface of the red planet make up the next type of debris. These crafts are the Mars 3 lander, Mars 6 lander, Viking 1 lander, Viking 2 lander, the Sojourner rover, the formerly lost Beagle 2 lander, the Phoenix lander, the Spirit rover, and the most recently deceased spacecraft, the Opportunity rover.