Throughout 50 years of exploration on Mars , NASA has accumulated a large amount of debris on the red planet with its space launches.
NASA is one of the most advanced space agencies in the world when it comes to exploration and for decades it has focused specifically on two celestial bodies: the Moon and Mars . The latter represents the most ambitious location for the American organization and that is why it has been the destination of a large part of its releases. However, this has also caused a large amount of garbage to begin to accumulate on the planet’s surface.
The United Nations Office for Space Affairs mentioned that all the attempts by scientists and astronomers to uncover the mysteries of Mars over the past 50 years have caused agencies around the Earth to send 18 vehicles to the red planet through 14 space missions.
The downside of exploring Mars
Because the vehicles that transport elements and equipment as important as the rovers – explorer robots with cameras and other tools that help study the planet – tend to undock from other modules, many of these end up being abandoned on the Martian surface and have remained there. for decades in the vast majority of cases. For example, Perseverance , the agency’s newest rover, spotted one of these pieces of human trash when it arrived on the planet.
To date, it is estimated that all the accumulated human garbage on Mars amounts to 10 tons, but considering that some equipment is still in the active phase, it is estimated that the total amount of garbage left on the planet is around 7 tons . Scientists believe that this originates from three main sources: disused components, inactive spacecraft and remains of spacecraft that crashed for some reason.
During the descent of the capsules containing Mars research equipment , they eject components such as nets, heat shields, parachutes, and more. Although they are pieces of the same ships, they end up being scattered throughout the red planet, which causes the garbage not to accumulate in a single area but in various points due to the strong winds that blow on this star.
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
A possible danger for future space missions
In itself, much of the garbage that can be found on Mars corresponds to that generated by the launches of NASA’s Perseverance , Curiosity and Opportunity rovers , which arrived on the planet in 2021, 2012 and 2005 respectively. For example, Ingenuity – the helicopter that arrived on Mars together with Perseverance – captured in images how elements such as cables, networks and even the rear casing of the rover were dragging on the Martian surface.
Although 7 tons is a tiny amount compared to the extent of the surface of Mars , NASA scientists have explained that the presence of space debris on the planet could pose a danger to future missions since much of this debris is have accumulated at landing sites for spacecraft.