Space is considered the final frontier for a reason. And, despite decades of studying the unknown beyond our planet, there’s still so little that we know. What we do know, though, is that the risk of human waste littering space and other planets is something we want to avoid as much as possible. That’s why Perseverance’s recent discovery of human trash on Mars has created so much conversation.
Why people are worried about Perseverance finding human trash on Mars
It might seem silly to look at one of the most recent photos from Perseverance and be upset by the fact that Mars is already being littered with human waste. After all, it isn’t like we’re piling up tons of trash on Mars. And, while that’s technically true, the discovery of a thermal blanket from Perseverance’s landing has raised some questions.
For one, there are always going to be concerns around climate change that many believe humanity is pushing forward. There are, obviously, a lot of reasons behind the ongoing changes to our global climate, and humanity no doubt plays a part in all of that. That part that we play, has also raised some concerns about how our exploration of space could cause it to become littered with human trash, too.
These aren’t invalid concerns by any means. In fact, back in 1966, many countries signed the Outer Space Treaty. This agreement essentially agreed that the exploration of space would be carried out for the benefit of all. It also said that we would avoid “harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies. Obviously, that includes not letting a bunch of human trash on Mars build up.
But many argue that this treaty doesn’t say enough. And, with the recent discovery made by Perseverance, that could very well be true. Every spacecraft we put on Mars, or any other planet is going to leave behind some kind of trash. There’s just no avoiding it. However, there are steps we can take to limit the amount of trash we’re letting pile up.
What did Perseverance find anyway?
Which brings us back to the trash that Perseverance found on Mars. The silvery piece of material was spotted wedged into a rock formation on the Martian surface. While the exact nature of the trash isn’t known, NASA believes it is a thermal blanket from the rover’s descent stage.
Thermal blankets are used to control the temperatures of spacecraft. What’s most surprising about this piece of trash’s location, though, is that it’s more than 2km (roughly 1.24 miles) away from where Perseverance’s descent stage crashed. That’s not an insane distance by any measure. But it does make you wonder whether it landed there or if the wind put it there.
Either way, finding human trash on Mars is cause for concern, even if the build-up isn’t drastic quite yet. As NASA and other space agencies prepare for manned missions to the planet, and to other planets, it will be important to find sustainable materials that deteriorate without creating a lot of extra waste.