NASA’s Mars 2020 has successfully landed on the red planet, delivering its payload of the rover Perseverance and the small robotic helicopter Ingenuity. What a fantastic achievement. I can’t begin to think about the mathematics and physics involved in delivering such an inch perfect expedition. It is a testament to humanity’s intuition, dexterity and determination.
It isn’t the first time that we have been to Mars though and I doubt it will be the last. Despite all of the challenges, there is talk of a permanent settlement to be built one day which will make man an extra terrestrial species. The future looks interesting yet we have started the way we mean to carry on.
Already humans have made an impact beyond that which it intended. The surface of the planet is littered with pieces of debris from previous missions, both successful and failed. This latest mission saw the jettison and abandonment of the heat shield, the parachutes and the rocket cradle that placed the rover on the ground. I don’t know what thought was given to what would happen to these pieces of rubbish but it is likely that they will hang around on the surface of the plant for millions of years to come.
Humanity has form. Our current planet is already covered with the detritus of human living. If you were to remove everything but our litter you would still be able to make out every road and pathway that we have used. Just take a look out of your window next time you take a drive. The verges are covered in litter, especially at junctions and slip roads. It is a travesty.
I realise that the cost of disposal on Mars would be astronomic (no pun intended) and would probably make any mission impossible but it shows what we are really like. We think about the task in hand and not the long term consequences of the footprints we leave behind. Those will be for someone else to tidy up, if they ever get around to it.
Perhaps we can’t keep Mars tidy, at least at the moment but we could at least make a start on the Earth.