Earth’s third nearest neighbor Mars has been beckoning potential space explorers for over a century to brave the dangerous expanse of space to establish human settlements upon the crimson world.
However, unless we solve the perchlorate problem, the only sentient life forms which will create outposts on the red planet will be robots.
The scientists followed-up with another round of experiments that looked at the toxic effects of iron oxides and hydrogen peroxide, which are also found in Martian soil. These tests yielded even more bad news for microscopic Martians: when the bacteria were hit with UV rays in the presence of perchlorates, iron oxide and peroxide, the bugs were killed 11 times faster than with perchlorates alone. Writing in Scientific Reports, the researchers say that the inhospitable conditions on Mars are caused by a “toxic cocktail of oxidants, iron oxides, perchlorates and UV irradiation.” (The Guardian)
Unfortunately, this mission ending issue is being ignored by most of the masses or minimized by Martian enthusiasts.
Fortunately, there seems to be a group of students who are attempting to resolve an issue overlooked by many professionals.
However, before this is even possible, an important obstacle needs to be overcome: 0.5 – 1% of all mars soil contains the, for humans, very toxic perchlorate (ClO 4 – ). This perchlorate is toxic for humans because it disrupts iodine uptake by the thyroid gland, thereby interfering with our overall metabolism. This would mean that, once humans are able to go to Mars, it isn’t even possible to survive there for long. Luckily, we have found a solution. Like the beginning of life on earth, bacteria can possibly be the beginning of life on Mars. By transferring eight genes to an E.coli bacterium, we will engineer a system that is capable of turning perchlorate in non-toxic chloride ions and oxygen. This way we will not only detoxify the soil, but also produce oxygen, which is fundamental for human life. (iGEM Leiden)
iGEM Leiden’s plan is ambitious. However, funding is sadly the least of their problems thanks to the creation of the Outer Space Treaty by politicians & lawyers.
States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose. (The National Academics of Sciences, Medicine & Engineering)
Before humans can safely settle upon Mars, they need to alter the legal barrier forbidding Earth dwellers from purposely
contaminating seeding the red planet with bacteria.
If humanity is unwilling to change the law then settling upon Mars becomes not only legally impossible but physically as well.