Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


Popular Science speaks with Professor Renno about Mars

Posted: October 6, 2015

Popular Science speaks with Professor Renno about Mars Astronauts in Martian Dust Storms (artist's concept). Image Credit: NASA/Paul DiMare

“Once we send humans to Mars, it will be really, really hard to avoid contamination,” Professor Nilton Renno told Popular Science in a recent article titled, “Should we search for life on Mars before sending astronauts?”

The article explains that if we want to find life on Mars, we need to look in the places where life is most likely to be, called “special regions.” However, if we send a “dirty spacecraft into one of these Special Regions, Earth microbes could also thrive there, contaminating Mars and making it so that if we ever do discover microbial life on Mars, we won't know whether it's native to Mars or imported from Earth,” the article states.

“Humans would take a huge number of microbes with them. They would leak out of a spacecraft and some of them would potentially end up in Special Regions because of transport by wind,” Renno told Popular Science.

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