According to Gunther Hasinger, Director of Science at the ESA (European Space Agency), manned missions to Mars will take place, but first, samples of Martian soils have to be taken, brought on Earth, and studied, and this would be a challenging procedure.
For Hasinger, who was previously the Director of the Institute of Astronomy of the University of Hawaii, in the USA, Mars is an attractive target because, in principle, if there were signs of life on a planet other than Earth, it would be on this one, while Mars would also be the only planet humans could go to.
“In principle, it will be possible to settle and to work there, but the journey itself is the greatest challenge,” he said before pointing out why is the Moon under the focus of the space agencies around the world. He recalled that last year, Russia and the United States signed a memorandum to build a space station to orbit the Moon, the Deep Space Gateway, that could serve as a launching pad for eventually manned missions to Mars.
Before manned missions to Mars, ESA and NASA must study Martian soil samples
For example, the first phase of the ESA’s ExoMars mission has already begun to study Mars atmosphere for trace gases, including methane, with enormous geological or biological implications and about which there is scientific controversy, regarding its origins on the Red Planet.
The second phase of this mission will be launched in July 2020 with the objective of taking and studying Martian soil samples.
The next steps would be to bring Martian soil samples to Earth, but, Gunther Hasinger thinks that’s no easy task because it’s not just about transportation but also about building a laboratory on Earth that can preserve and examine the probes in proper conditions without contaminating them.
For now, there is a memorandum of understanding between NASA and ESA, signed in April in Berlin, to study how to bring Martian soil samples back to Earth.
Erin VanDyke lives on her family farm and has more than 35 years of hands-on experience with the use of livestock guard dogs for predator control. On their farm, Jan and her family use corgis as herding dogs and have raised Shetland sheep, Fainting goats, Morgan and Trakehner horses, and historic breeds of chickens and turkeys. Erin is also an active beekeeper.