Talk:Manned mission to Mars

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Contamination Concerns section - size and balance[edit]

This talk page section is Backed up for readability to Contamination Concerns Section ... (on my user talk page)

I don't see the benefit of so many leading colons or so long a section name. Each reply goes deep into substance. Prematurely deep, seems to me, where I hope to establish small agreement leading to substantial consensus. First is there agreement on using these two documents as refs? Second, if so, do some editors think one sentence to describe both or each may be too much, too little, or just right? Third, Warning: discussion on the next point may undo whatever consensus the first two may gather. Third, what should that, or those, sentences say? Jim.henderson (talk) 20:42, 28 June 2013 (UTC)

Not sure which "two documents" you are referring to. Warren Platts (talk) 21:26, 28 June 2013 (UTC)

Drat; while checking this I found that it wasn't my only shameful neglect or even my worst, but I'll handle it first, quoting from our alarmist friend first:

is as follows:

The risks of environmental disruption resulting from the inadvertent contamination of Earth with putative martian microbes are still considered to be low. But since the risk cannot be demonstrated to be zero, due care and caution must be exercised in handling any martian materials returned to Earth.[1]

To deal with these issues, the NASA Office of Planetary Protection[2] recommends construction of a special a Mars Receiving Facility. They recommend that the facility should be operational at least two years prior to launch,[3] with various estimates on the time taken to build the facility and bring it to operational readiness. Preliminary studies have warned that it may take as many as 7 to 10 years to get it operational.[4]

The official reports stress the need for public debate at the international level due to the ethical issues involved.


Considering the global nature of the issue, consequences resulting from an unintended release could be borne by a larger set of countries than those involved in the programme. It is recommended that mechanisms dedicated to ethical and social issues of the risks and benefits raised by an MSR are set up at the international level and are open to representatives of all countries.[5]

End of my quote of quotes. 

Naturally anyone was confused because I neglected to say I was referring to these two quotes and their direct refs but not the many related ones.

Meanwhile, reading the whole article (well, one of the old, Andromedaless versions) I discovered treatments of matters that are in the wrong article, such as artificial gravity and baking bread. Not being unique to Mars trips, they belong in articles addressing such questions in broader context. Last but not least egregius, I discovered that we have an article addressing the Andromeda Strain scenario (obviously we wouldn't use that phrase in article space; it's just a silly joke for us Chrichton fans), namely Back-contamination which is short and doesn't mention Mars. Which means, to my mind, that we're addressing the Martian Andromeda scenario in the wrong place. So, shouldn't the hypothetical Mars Receiving Laboratory and all related topics that must be hashed out, go there? Once that's properly set up, we can decide on a little squib to summarize and link to it. Jim.henderson (talk) 23:12, 28 June 2013 (UTC)

I agree that discussion of baking bread and synthesizing intravenous fluid is not directly relevant to the main theme of the article. Perhaps we should delete that as well. I added a sentence to the technology challenges section that mentions the challenge of dealing with contamination issues. IMHO, that's enough for this article as it stands now. There are a lot more important issues that could be fleshed out: e.g., the most recent galactic cosmic radiation (GCR) results that just came out in Science. YMMV. Warren Platts (talk) 02:01, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

From the edit of WarrenPlatts at 15:01 hours on the 27th of June to his edit at 02:03 hours on the 29th, there were 7 in line citations added but the numerous removals of material with citations left 78 fewer citations. The trend is obvious. The removals tended to be information potentially opposed to undertaking manned missions to Mars thus converting the article into an advocacy piece supporting WarrenPlatts' POV. WarrenPlatts claimed inTalk:Manned mission to Mars/Archive 1#Deleted sections detailing Robert Walker's WP:SYNTH opinions: "This article doesn't need a section on Walker's 'concerns' that is longer than the rest of the article." but the citations clearly show that there are reliable sources that express these concerns. How long it should be is open to discussion but the only mention left of forward or backward contamination is point #7 of the challenges section presented with no in-line citation. WarrenPlatts refers to concerns for contamination of Mars or contamination Earth from Mars as "a fringe POV based on fringe science" but provides no reliable source to support this opinion. The reasons to avoid a manned trip should include the exorbitant cost, the fact that for the one-way option all voyagers to Mars would need to be supported by Earth for the rest of their lives with supplies that cost more than double the cost of an equivalent weight of gold to deliver to Mars, because regenerative life support systems for Mars have not yet been perfected. It should be brought out that the HUMEX study suggested that the health risk to astronauts from loss of bone mass in a weightless journey to Mars would be unacceptable. WarrenPlatts writes above about the concerns section: "It is nauseating." However WP:IDONTLIKEIT indicates that such arguments should be disregarded. If the portion of an article about manned missions to Mars concerning why they should not be done is longer than the portion concerning efforts to do them, that is completely understandable. People have been deciding not to do these missions for more than fifty years. There must be some reasons. - Fartherred (talk) 18:34, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

That's right: removing Robert's "content" tends to remove "information" opposed to undertaking crewed missions to Mars--after all, that is his whole agenda. However, to say that turns the article into an "advocacy piece" is quite a stretch. lol! Warren Platts (talk) 23:35, 29 June 2013 (UTC)
It does not seem to be a laughing matter to me. You refer to Robertinventor's contributions here as "off-topic verbiage". It would only seem off-topic to you if you think the topic is advocating WarrenPlatts' point of view. For a neutral point of view information opposed to sending human crews to Mars is just as on-topic as any other information about crewed missions. Where do you get the idea that information opposed to crewed missions is off-topic? - Fartherred (talk) 07:29, 30 June 2013 (UTC)
Wow, this is ironic. You keep writing about my POV as if you can read my mind. FYI, I'm actually in agreement with you and Robert that we shouldn't be going to Mars. The obsession with Mars has absolutely ruined NASA IMHO. It's a massive misallocation of resources. We should be focusing on lunar exploration at this point in our history. The difference between me and you and Robert is that I don't cynically use the Wikipedia to advance my personal hobby horse. This is not a discussion forum. This is not the place to debate the pros and cons of going to Mars. Go to or or any of a number of places for that. Here, we should be focusing on making this article as objectively informative as possible. Here's the actual diff with the deletion the comment refers to. Note the tags for "Too long" and "Speculation". I did not place the tags there. I merely removed the too longness and the speculation. And yes, discussing mining "the substance" of Deimos is off topic IMHO. YMMV. Cheers, Warren Platts (talk) 16:29, 30 June 2013 (UTC)
No Warren I can not read your mind, only your diffs. The unballanced POV in the article is yours because it is your accomplishment. Are you unaware that you removed every citation of a reliable source mentioning forward or backward contamination? You called such concerns, "a fringe POV based on fringe science" here. Do you deny now that that is your POV? If it is not your point of view then it is no one's and we should put citations supporting concern for forward and backward contamination back into the article.
The diff you have just referred to shows that you did replace (Template:Very long) after BatteryIncluded removed it. The template was first placed along with (Template:Speculation) by Reatlas at 05:23 hours on the 28th of June so there has been little opportunity to discuss the merit of these templates or what ought to be done to remedy the situation. I particularily object to the removal of Zubrin's proposed Athena mission, which is quite well supported as comming from a reliable source and is no more speculation than 16 of the surface mission proposals that were left in the article as mere history. It is the history of surface mission proposals that seems too long to me.
I am unsure as to why you think mining Deimos is off-topic. If it is because it would involve a colony then the reference to Mar One's colony plan should be removed too. If it is because it is an orbital mission then the other orbital missions to Mars should be removed too. Could you explain your thinking? - Fartherred (talk) 00:17, 1 July 2013 (UTC) fix typo - Fartherred (talk) 02:57, 1 July 2013 (UTC)
Feel free to reinstall Athena. I was going to do that myself. Thanks for saving me the trouble! Cheers, Warren Platts (talk) 01:55, 1 July 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Restoring mention of Athena will be sufficient work for me for a little while.

Since WarrenPlatts does not answer the question: "Where do you get the idea that information opposed to crewed missions is off-topic?", I am assuming he agrees that information opposed to crewed missions is on-topic. Since he does not repudiate his statement calling contamination concerns "a fringe POV based on fringe science" correcting the unbalanced POV that he introduced seems in order. - Fartherred (talk) 04:34, 1 July 2013 (UTC)

Space mining[edit]

More long strings of colons? Whatever. Anyway, if space mining Deimos is an important topic, then it is more important to In-situ resource utilization than to this article. Yes, it is off topic in a discussion of back-contamination. We should pay attention to finding the best place for material, not just push the importance of a topic as transcending questions of context. Jim.henderson (talk) 00:37, 1 July 2013 (UTC)

Agreed. Warren Platts (talk) 01:55, 1 July 2013 (UTC)
Mentions of Mining Deimos in the contamination concerns section were out of place. The article had become poorly structured as well as too long, something that I can notice even though I am not very good a structuring articles. However there was a mention of "suggestions for mining the substance of Deimos" in the (Exploration of the surface from orbit, via telerobotics and telepresence) section. That mention was least out of place. If I would put mining Deimos back in the article it would be as a possible advantage for exploring Mars from orbit, with perhaps a link to a mention in ISRU. However, that is not the first thing to do. The first thing is real life. - Fartherred (talk) 04:34, 1 July 2013 (UTC)

Rename Page?[edit]

Propose we rename the page "Crewed mission to Mars" since "crewed" is the descriptor of choice in NASA and AIAA papers these days since it's gender neutral. Warren Platts (talk) 15:16, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

Suggest "Human mission to Mars" rather than "Crewed mission to Mars" as per Human spaceflight. Reatlas (talk) 04:50, 30 June 2013 (UTC)
Interesting. I see that they also refer to "Crewed Space Flight". I agree it's debatable. Unlike some of the pseudoscience that's been passed around lately.... Warren Platts (talk) 01:55, 1 July 2013 (UTC)
I think a better title would be "Eternally Delayed Mission to Mars", this would keep reference to gender out of the title while accurately representing the true nature of the program. When everyone reading this now is dead, then and only then will the American government have the guts to send humans to Mars.
2602:306:BDA0:97A0:466D:57FF:FE90:AC45 (talk) 00:06, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
It's "manned" rather than "human" firstly for historical reasons (e.g. "Man on the moon") and secondly because the phrase is still in wide use. "Manned" is nowadays taken to mean "humanned" - no mysogyny implied. andy (talk) 07:25, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
"Manned" used to be taken to mean "crewed," but you're seeing space agencies move away from the terminology more and more eg manned spaceflight is now human spaceflight, spacecraft were once manned and now crewed, man-rated has become human-rated. "Human mission to Mars" or "Crewed mission to Mars" both sound like perfectly good alternatives. Anythingcouldhappen (talk) 10:41, 9 July 2014 (UTC)

RFC on Contamination Concerns[edit]

The focus of this RFC is what weight should be given to contamination concerns. Robert McClenon (talk) 18:40, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

Bottom line: it doesn't need a section longer than the rest of the article put together.... Warren Platts (talk) 22:35, 29 June 2013 (UTC)

I don't see why it needs to be more than a single item on the list of challenges. Is it given a huge amount of weight in the reliable secondary resources that the article pulls from? If not, then it should be given a huge amount of weight in the article either. Arathald (talk) 17:49, 2 July 2013 (UTC)

  • A single line or two is all what is needed. What is directly addressed in sources should be a (very small) paragraph in Exploration_of_Mars#Future_missions. --Cyclopiatalk 14:34, 4 July 2013 (UTC)
  • IMO the actual size is a matter of taste and far less important than the content and its linking. However, contamination concern is a complex subject and an important one. To shoehorn it into a single item in a larger article does no justice to either topic nor to the readers. My vote is to put the whole contamination topic into a coherent and articulate article of its own, mention it in the list of points with a brief and unobjectionable summary without any material that is likely to prove unstable or debatable, and link each article to the other. Then the size and completeness of each article becomes independent, and all the name-calling and kerfuffle can go to the religion-quackery-yuck-factor-sex-and-nudity articles where it belongs. JonRichfield (talk) 13:21, 14 July 2013 (UTC)
There is a separate article: Planetary protection, not to mention Interplanetary contamination, although the latter will probably be merged with the former. Warren Platts (talk) 15:04, 14 July 2013 (UTC)
  • I've added a link to Interplanetary contamination to the concerns section. The article looks fine the way it is. Is there another proposal in [[1]] I should look at? ~KvnG 13:46, 16 July 2013 (UTC)
Just discovered Robertinventor/deleted sections from Manned mission to Mars. That looks a bit like an WP:ESSAY. Definitely would create an WP:UNDUE issue if inserted here. Perhaps some of the material could be incorporated into Planetary protection or Interplanetary contamination. Perhaps a new article is warranted. ~KvnG 13:53, 16 July 2013 (UTC)

If the references as a whole reflect that it is of major importance, put it. If not, don't emphasize too much on the topic. --JustBerry (talk) 22:24, 16 July 2013 (UTC)

Contamination has long been a matter of significant concern to NASA. This dates back to the Apollo program, though that was a backward contamination concern, as it was deemed impossible for terrestrial organisms to survive on the Lunar surface. That idea changed with the discovery of extremophiles and contamination in both directions is guarded against. A brief mention, as is made in the article as it is currently is more than sufficient, with appropriate links as needed for a reader who is interested can follow to the article on Planetary protection and Interplanetary contamination, but we most certainly do not need a massive essay within the article regarding one part of standard mission planning for interplanetary exploration missions.Wzrd1 (talk) 03:37, 20 July 2013 (UTC)
Just to say I am aware of the issues with deleted sections from Manned mission to Mars. It was written some time back and I now see many flaws in it. There was a long discussion here about it in the talk page some time back, archived now, about what to do with it. As you can tell from the discussion, I was going to edit it and trim it, after first working to integrate relevant parts to elsewhere in wikipedia where they belong. But in the middle of that project all my edits on this topic were removed from wikipedia including the section here of course.
I have recently started work on Planetary Protection as probably the least controversial page I can work on. Don't see how anyone could call the current version POV slanted except for one section, the Issues section at the end which can easily be omitted altogether if preferred, I would like it to be totally non controversial as there is no reason for it to be anything else.
If my editing there is acceptable, then maybe at some point I might try working on Interplanetary Contamination. There is a huge amount to cover. Forward and back contamination each easily have enough material to cover several more articles like Planetary protection. So it's a matter of deciding what to leave out if I try to do it as a single article. It would be very different from the deleted section here if I do it, have learnt a lot about how to do encyclopedic writing on the topic since then.
The reason this is a concern for human exploration is that it is really hard to see how a human mission to Mars could get approval under COSPAR and the Outer Space Treaty. Because harsh though the surface is, yet there is a chance of micro-habitats where life could just survive. Particularly, it seems that lichens might be able to survive on the surface of Mars as is. Also possible habitats using deliquescing salts, micro-habitats but still, habitable to Earth micro-organisms quite possibly. And human mission would need to target areas of Mars with ice, so it is no solution to try the Curiosity area which though dry and probably less chance to contaminate, has no ice for humans to use for water.
You can sterilize robots. But humans, with 100 trillion micro-organisms in 10,000 species, 1 trillion in 1000 species just on your skin, many genera, and all the other micro-organisms in a space habitat - just can't sterilize that in the way you can sterilize Curiosity. There is written material about this if you look for it, though for some reason it gets hardly any publicity, so most don't know about it or know about the issue or have thought about it much at all. If you go by popular press, and indeed NASA public announcements too, they give contamination issues almost no mention, like one line mention, for human missions. So in that sense a one line mention here would correspond to that, is same way that NASA themselves treat human missions. But some time down the road it needs to be thought about and there are quite a few notable papers on the topic by thinkers who have tried to look ahead and think through these issues and try to see what could and couldn't happen, in the future. If I get the chance I'll edit Interplanetary contamination to include some of this material and then maybe you can decide if it needs to be mentioned back here or not.
But after the last few months, which were pretty horrendous for me, as wikipedia editor will step very slowly before doing anything like that again. Robert Walker (talk) 21:02, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
It currently is a low priority issue, as there is no current planned manned Mars mission. That said, there are ideas, including Suitport, which would bypass the entire issue of humans contaminating the Martian (or any other planet/moon/etc) environment, as the suite would easily be sterilizable and never be touched by microbe infested human hands where it interfaces with the outside environment. The primary issue then would be maintaining any samples that are gathered in a sterile environment to prevent backcontamination, but that is also old hat from the old Lunar exploration program.Wzrd1 (talk) 21:41, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
The Suitport would be good for dust. Useful for lunar work too. Would be interesting to know if it can work for contamination issues. If it leaks, a slight leak, say from one of the joints or a tear, or micro-meteorite dmage, that might be no problem for dust, because you have positive pressure inside and a vacuum outside, and dust won't come into the spacesuit against a leak. And if it is just a pin prick type leak, it wouldn't matter at all for maintaining life inside. But it would mean that micro-organisms from inside get out onto the surface of Mars. So preventing the dust getting in, and preventing Earth contamination getting out, are different issues. It is the sort of thing that can be researched - here is a research project on Mars spacesuit contamination issues.
The biggest problem with human missions is, though, under COSPAR everything has to be certified safe for a hard landing i.e. crash. With humans on board, then that's obviously impossible. One accident on Mars with a human occupied craft, and it is of course disastrous for the humans, but it also irreversibly contaminates the planet. Especially if headed for an icy part of Mars, or if a rocket misfires so it hits a habitable area, hard to see how that could be reversed. Also what if an astronaut has an accident on the surface leading to breach of the spacesuit, could be a minor incident, just a tear, survive it fine but they contaminate Mars.
Maybe some day we can build such robust spacecraft, maybe with self sealing materials, to be safe even in that situation... And at the same time totally contamination free spacesuits, self repairing, impossible to tear, maybe with self-cleaning surfaces? I could just about see it maybe being possible in some future but don't think we have got there yet. I think at the moment if you do want to have a totally risk free way of exploring Mars with humans, or at least as risk free as the present day rovers, I can't see how you could do it except using telerobotics. Very happy to be proved wrong if someone does find a way to do it :).
With back contamination, the lunar program actually by its own standards was a failure, there were at least two failures of containment, one during splashdown of Apollo 11 and one at Houston. Also the methods used then would be inadequate by modern standards. We now know for instance that the smallest Ultramicrobacteria are as small as 0.2 microns. The GTAs which could transfer DNA from martian micro-organisms to Earth micro-organisms if they have a shared ancestry at some point in the past, can be as small as 0.01 microns. So we can't just recreate the lunar receiving laboratory, but would have to create a new building to contain Mars materials. But can learn from the lessons of the Lunar receiving laboratory. It was built very quickly in two years so perhaps it is understandable that some things went wrong and people made mistakes. Robert Walker (talk) 22:39, 21 July 2013 (UTC)
There are some figures here on the leak rates of spacesuits (slides) EVA System Competency and Containment for Science Capabilities and Contamination Control the ISS EMU has leak rates of 136.5 sccm (standard ccs per minute)- i.e. every minute it loses the same mass of air as in 136.5 cc at 1 bar. That's for a lunar mission but you still want to prevent contaminating lunar samples when you collect them if possible. It suggests it is hard to totally prevent micro-organisms escaping from a spacesuit, which i have also seen stated in some of the papers I read. Robert Walker (talk) 22:50, 21 July 2013 (UTC)

The notion that a pinprick leak would contaminate the Martian environment is a bit of a stretch, spacesuits are designed to be robust and not get pinprick leaks or significant tears. Add to that the fact that any symbiotic bacteria on or in the human body would then face a near vacuum, essentially oxygen free and high radiation environment, the likelihood is beyond low that such microorganisms would survive to contaminate such a hostile and different environment than the one that they evolved to thrive in. To desire an entire risk free enterprise is utterly unrealistic, as in every enterprise there is always an element of risk, one mitigates what one can, but eventually one arrives at a point of diminishing returns and insane expenses made for the most improbable of risks. That is why a risk analysis is performed, to balance the exposure to risk and the protections against an adverse event.Wzrd1 (talk) 23:00, 21 July 2013 (UTC)

Ah but that's the thing. First- those figures were for typical use of an EMU on the ISS. Yes is natural to assume that the micro-organisms associated with humans are adapted to live only on humans. But it is far from the case actually. For instance a micro-organism isolated from the human tongue was found to do better at Martian air pressures than it does at Earth air pressurs - a surprise since most micro-organisms find the near vacuum of space so inhospitable that they stay dormant, but this could actually grow in the near vacuum and did better than at 1 bar. There were other promising ones as well but of many micro-organisms they tested, this one, sampled from a human tongue, was I think the best of them all if I remember right, or certainly one of the very best. You can't always predict from the habitat you find it in, what capabilities a micro-organisms will have in other habitats.
Radiodurans the vamous radioresistant micro-organism famous for surviving in reactor cooling ponds, is also found in low populations in the soil and in other places, including clean rooms, people's clothes, gamma irradiated meat, ... The thing is, often ordinary looking micro-organisms have hidden extemophile capabilities. The pin prick leaks could matter because of the huge amounts of micro-organisms. Even in the air,the air on the ISS is kept very clean because of problems caused by micro-organisms on the ISS and the Soyuz, the limits are 1000 CFUs per cubic meter for bacteria and 100 CFUs per cubic meter for fungi. Even with air as clean as that, still means one CFU every thousand cubic centimeters so every three minutes for the spacesuit leaks, and every half an hour for the fungi. And the CFUs underestimate the population. That's also assuming air in the spacesuit is kept as clean as it is in the ISS. I doubt if the spacesuits are so airtight that they have no leaks of micron scale particles. They are complex things with many moving parts, not like you have a single kind of film that covers everything. In any case they are also clumsy to use, and take ages to put on and off. Seems you actually gain mobility from using telerobotics instead.
The thing about spacesuit leaks I've seen mentioned e.g. I think one of Chris McKay's papers. But I don't think it went into any details about the numbers of micro-organisms involved. So that's why I tried doing a calculation to try to find out. With normal air locks then of course opening and closing the air lock loses lots and is one of the main failure points. But with your Suitport I would be surprised if there is absolutely no leak at all when it detaches from the spacecraft. So long as the leak was positive outwards rather than inwards, that would fulfill its design criteria. Here is [ a study of all this from 2007, goes into some detail mainly raises lots of questions and need for future research[.
And whatever, if you do manage to sort out the spacesuit leaks, you still have the hard landings issue. I haven't seen any solution for that at all in anything I've read. Would just have to accept that if there is a hard landing, or a surface accident, that you contaminate Mars irreversibly. And apart from ethical considerations of responsibility of keeping Mars free from terrestrial life for other scientists to study, it's also hard to see how to square that with the OST. I think these issues will come into clearer focus if anyone does try to put forward a really concrete proposal for a Mars mission. Right now as you say it is "for the future" and the general feeling is these things will somehow get sorted out. But I don't see how they will be and feel we could use our resources more productively by recognising that and focusing instead on methods that don't have these issues such as human orbit missions with telerobotics, or more focus on Curiosity class missions and automated rovers. Anyway will see what happens. As far as editing wikiopedia, I think all this research is notable and published in notable sources and needs to go somewhere at some point. But whether it should be given prominence here is another issue, which is what this RfC is about. I've said I think it should be, but so far most of the others seem to say it shouldn't, and as that is how decisions are made in wikipedia, that's proper procedure. It might change perhaps in the future with new results, discoveries or research. Robert Walker (talk) 00:11, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

I agree with Wzrd1 that "insane expenses" could be paid in connection with a manned mission to Mars. I do not consider it a reason to discard concern for forward contamination of Mars. Instead it seems a reason to discard the idea of manned missions to Mars' surface in favor of remote controlled artificially intelligent missions until the biological situation on Mars has been reasonably looked into. What we need to do is find reliable sources that state such arguments and/or opposed arguments. Then they should go into to this article or one like [[Planetary protection]] with links according to consensus. It is logically impossible that a suitport could operate without some leak from the area between the hatch that closes the suit and the hatch that closes the inhabited space connected to the suit. We could use reliably sourced information on whether the space between the two hatches can be reasonably sterilized or not. - Fartherred (talk) 14:01, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

Farthered, I'm willing to search for reliable sources and write such an article, if others here are happy with that. Not quite right away but if my edits for Planetary protection are allowed to stay in place, as seems quite promising, no reverts yet, though still "under construction". Got some work to do on it yet.
I think, apart from WP, who objected to including details straight from the ESF report, for most of those who commented, my "bias" here on Mars Project is more to do with the extent of coverage of contamination issues, than the actual content. Maybe if I can write stand alone articles, and not make them part of Project Mars you can all see the accuracy and the scholarship behind my approach to writing for wikipedia. (I agree that the section I wrote here didn't live up to those standards but I think have learnt my lesson there about certain things to avoid when writing for an encyclopedia). Hopefully my edits on Planetary protection can show that, as I have avoided any POV related topics at all except for the short issues section at the end which I don't know what to do about. Without the distraction of the POV issues hopefully all of you can see the qualities of my contributions to wikipedia.
I've looked into the suitport some more. It seems designed to prevent back contamination into the spacecraft. Would reduce forward contamination compared with a normal airlock, a lot, but doesn't seem designed to eliminate it altogether, and haven't seen any suggestions by anyone that it does do that. Forward contamination just not mentioned in the things I've read so far. Perhaps some other design using some of its ideas though could do that?? Is an interesting design for contamination issues. I'd have thought for instance a good first step is to do it so the two halves are not separated within the living quarters but remain attached together as a single unit throughout except during EVA. That also would mean almost zero loss of air as the interior of the hatch never contacts the air in the living quarters, and would also mean it doesn't have to be pumped out, only once when the unit is constructed, which is also when it would be steilized. I wonder if anyone has tried out that idea?
You have suit leakage too, and their walking suit has many bearings to permit movement, would be surprised if air leakage through those doesn't also permit sub micron particles to escape. Perhaps other designs of suit could do that though perhaps based on the biosuit ideas - if it somehow incorporates a layer impervious at sub micron level, and also done so that it is a bit thicker so robust against any chance of tear or pin-prick leak?
If that is solved, you then need to have a close to 100% reliable way to land spacecraft on Mars with no risk of a hard landing of human occupied craft (which would surely forward contaminate Mars). Maybe some day but don't think we are quite there yet. Robert Walker (talk) 17:12, 22 July 2013 (UTC)

Contamination concerns background[edit]

First, to introduce myself, I'm the author of the content that was deleted from the article and lead to the RfC

I have a backup of the deleted material here to save the need to hunt through history to find it: User:Robertinventor/deleted sections from Manned mission to Mars

Don't worry, I'm not going to edit the article. I did BRD, got a second revert instead of the D, and decided to give up at that point due to other events in the past.

But since there is an RfC on whether to include the material that I wrote which was deleted, thought it might be an idea to say just a bit about why there are these concerns. I will keep this as short as I can and not load it with citations or detailed explanations.

1. one of the main reasons for exploring Mars, for exobiologists, is to find out whether there is life on Mars and whether it originated there or on Earth. If on Mars, how did it evolve there? This is all of tremendous interest to exobiologists.

2. human beings are like a zoo + biological garden of micro-organisms. You are only 10% human cells. You have 100 trillion non human cells, in 10,000 different species, many not well understood. The food, and air of a human spaceship would also be filled with many micro-organisms.

3. Is it possible to land humans on the surface without contaminating it with this life? Perhaps if you land a biohazard laboratory on Mars, but that is way beyond our present capability - and would also mean the humans have to stay within the laboratory.

4. Making a spacesuit into a mobile biohazard laboratory seems way beyond our current capability.

5. Category IV missions under COSPAR are required to keep the surface contamination free in the case of a hard landing. Clearly no human ship could be certified to pass that requirement as it would mean dead humans on the surface of the planet with all those hundred trillion micro-organisms..

6. The requirement of 500,000 spores for entire spaceship clearly can't be met. So the guidelines would have to change.

7. Mars surface is not as hostile as was once thought. Some mirco-organisms can survive hours or longer of Mars surface UV (enough to fall into a shadow if they are dispersed from a human). Some arctic lichens and cyanobacteria can survive and grow in Mars surface conditions. Many of the Mars soils are only mildly biocidal, not as lethal to life as used to be thought.

8. There are possible micro-habitats below the surface of Mars where life could survive.

9. The areas of Mars of most interest for human colonization are the areas with ice near the surface for supply of water to the humans. These are the same areas that are most likely to have micro-habitats of deliquescing salts just below the surface capable of being contaminated by micro-organisms brought by humans.

9. If there is native Mars life , it may be made extinct by the introduced life, or it may be there but hard to recognize, if it uses DNA like Earth life.

10. Most of Earth life hasn't been DNA sequenced and it would be hard to tell if a micro-organism found on Mars is originally from Earth or Mars if they have a common origin, and if Mars is contaminated by many different species of Earth life.

It seems clear that if you land humans on Mars, you have decided that the science value of Mars for studies of exobiology comes second to colonization of Mars which is your priority. This makes you a Mars surface colonization advocate.

To not mention this issue at all, or to give it only a one line reference means that the article comes down heavily on the side of Mars surface colonization advocates, especially since there is hardly any other material on the subject of contamination concerns now in Project Mars.

So- what do you do? Should you follow the news stories and not mention it at all? Or should you mention it because it is indeed a concern raised with human colonization of the surface of Mars, and because the article comes over as biased towards Mars surface colonization advocacy if you leave it out. Or should it perhaps have its own separate article?

In my view that is what this RfC is about.

Hope this is useful as background material for the RfC as it seems to me that many are not aware of these issues or this material. Warren if you want to add background material, can I suggest you do it as a separate section rather than comment on this one? Robert Walker (talk) 01:12, 4 July 2013 (UTC)

While there is probably sourced information on the back-contamination issue, and as such it should be addressed briefly somewhere, the stuff you have copied in your page is a horrible mess of original research, synthesis and POV-pushing of what is probably a fringe view. If that is what you want to put in the 'pedia,it's not going to fly. Rather than explaining the issue of contamination itself to us, please 1)present sources with explicitly and directly tackle the issue, and let's see what can be added where and what not 2)the weight of this point of view on the issue of Mars exploration should be assessed from the total of reliable sources, so that we can give due weight to the problem. --Cyclopiatalk 14:39, 4 July 2013 (UTC)
CyclOpia is correct in writing that Robertinventor's explanation of why the contamination issue is important is not the way we decide what should be included in Wikipedia. Reliable sources stating that the issue is important would count. CyclOpia's suggestion that concern with contamination is a fringe viewpoint would be difficult to document. Even given some fringe position on the contamination issue, it is not shown that all expressions of such concern would be a fringe viewpoint. Too many references will not all be evaluated. What we need are a few of the best references. - Fartherred (talk) 20:29, 4 July 2013 (UTC)
This, COSPAR AND NASA POLICIES, shows that concern with forward contamination is not a fringe issue since it was part of NASA policy at least in 2007. I do not know that there are any current definite NASA plans to send people to Mars, only reference mission plans to consider when evaluating what might be done in the future. If someone can show a reliable source indicating that NASA is definitely planning to land people on Mars, that would indicate that NASA is not much concerned with forward contamination. As for MarsDrive and Mars to Stay missions included in the article, they are put forth by advocacy groups that have no chance of implementing them. The Chinese plans for people on Mars between 2040 and 2060 are vague and distant enough in time to be disregarded as mere speculation supported only by a Chinese language reference. It seems as though there is a willingness to accept flimsy support as indicating credible plans to land people on Mars, and a willingness to label concerns with contamination as "fringe" on a mere editor's statement. Equal treatment for all potential article content is what is required for a neutral point of view. - Fartherred (talk) 22:06, 4 July 2013 (UTC)
There is material on this, quite a lot, but you have to search to find it,. as the popular science news stories almost never mention this issue for some reason. As Farthered said, NASA has no definite plans to send humans to the surface and haven't done any feasibility studies into contamination issues. I agree that the version in my user space needed to be rewritten and planned to do that after I finished the MSR back contamination article, as you can see if you take a look at the archived talk for this page. I was aware of its inadequacies as you will see from the archived discussions.
My plan, approved by the others here, was to merge appropriate sections from this page to other parts of Project Mars, such as Life on Mars, Water on Mars, and Mars sample return missions, and then come back here and reduce the length of the section here with short summaries and links to the other sections. This plan was aborted when all the material I added or merged elsewhere was deleted and the section here was also deleted by Warren.
Here is a decision tree for human Mars contamination issues by Lupisella. Here is an article at article Manned Mars Missions Could Threaten Red Planet Life

A seething, swarming mass of 100 trillion microbes will accompany every astronaut who lands on Mars. This diverse "microbiome" has evolved with humans for eons and provides a number of services, from helping people digest their food to keeping pathogenic bacteria at bay.

While these microbes are intimately tied to humans, many of them will jump ship if transported to the Martian surface — with unknown consequences for a planet that may or may not host life of its own.

We have the responsibility to Mars, I think — even if it's just Martian microbes — not to kill them by the act of detecting them," Cynthia Phillips of the SETI

"If you have human astronauts there," Phillips added, "there's no way to sterilize them. They're spewing out thousands of microbes every second. So it's a real problem."

Plenty of more academic material too, some of them I cite in the version in my user space. If the consensus was that a section or a separate page on this is needed, it would be something I could write and would have no problem finding plenty of citations to back it up.
There is also an opposing POV here that we shouldn't bother about contaminating Mars at all, with various reasons given for that. So that also would need to be presented. Everyone agrees that large numbers of Earth micro-organisms would be release onto the surface of Mars in a human mission, and that this is inevitable. Current COSPAR guidelines on human missions to Mars stress the need for research with robotic precursors before a human mission. They also say that humans shouldn't visit the Special Regions on Mars - regions where there might be liquid water (where present day martian life might be possible or where Earth life might flourish). I haven't seen any detailed discussion of how the COSPAR sterlization rules would be changed for a human landing, or any explanation from COSPAR of why it might be appropriate to use less stringent rules for human occupied spacecraft than for robotic spacecraft.
The sterilization procedures for robotic spacecraft sterilization was originally motivated by a requirement of a less than one chance in 10000 of contaminating Mars during the exploration phase. I haven't seen any figure like that for humans, obviously it would be a higher probability of contaminating Mars if it was accepted that human missions can go ahead. But I don't think COSPAR have discussed changes of the protocol for human missions to that level of detail. Robert Walker (talk) 07:44, 5 July 2013 (UTC)

FWIW - one may also take the POV that "there's no such thing as 'sterility' in the universe, get over it" - after all, according to one researcher recently, "You can find microbes everywhere — they're extremely adaptable to conditions, and survive wherever they are."< ref name="LS-20130317">Choi, Charles Q. (17 March 2013). "Microbes Thrive in Deepest Spot on Earth". LiveScience. Retrieved 17 March 2013. </ref>< ref name="NG-20130317">Glud, R. et al. (17 March 2013). "High rates of microbial carbon turnover in sediments in the deepest oceanic trench on Earth". Nature Geoscience. doi:10.1038/ngeo1773. Retrieved 17 March 2013. </ref>< ref name="LS-20130314">Oskin, Becky (14 March 2013). "Intraterrestrials: Life Thrives in Ocean Floor". LiveScience. Retrieved 17 March 2013. </ref> -

ALSO, according to recent spaceflight studies, microbes seem to adapt to the space environment in ways "not observed on Earth" - and in ways that "can lead to increases... in virulence"< ref name="PLOS-20130429">Tengra FK et al. (April 29, 2013). "Spaceflight Promotes Biofilm Formation by Pseudomonas aeruginosa". PLOS ONE 8 (4): e62437. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062437. Retrieved July 5, 2013. </ref> (and under conditions that immune systems of astronauts may be weakened?) - in any case - perhaps considering the POV that microbes are ubiquitous in the universe may be helpful in some way? - Enjoy! :) Drbogdan (talk) 12:24, 5 July 2013 (UTC)

The question of whether or not microbes are ubiquitous is still unsettled. The potential for research on Mars to shed some light on this question is one reason that many scientists want all landers that are sent to Mars sterilized. I did not notice any evidence in Drbogdan's linked material that microbes exist anywhere outside of planet Earth, except where people have transported them. I do not see how any of Drbogdan's links would serve as supportive citations for something belonging in the article. - Fartherred (talk) 13:32, 5 July 2013 (UTC)
@Fartherred - Thank you for your comments - I *entirely* agree with you - my purpose for posting was to consider a different point-of-view (fwiw) - and not to provide evidence of microbes outside of earth - nonetheless, and somewhat related, is there any real, and complete, assurance that there is not a single (at least potentially viable) microbe at the moment inside any of our space vehicles, including those on Mars? - and those (Viking probes) presently exiting the Solar System? - the related possible implications (including panspermia in the making?) may be interesting to consider of course - more to my original assertion (ie, "there's no such thing as 'sterility' in the universe..."), the fact that life forms are known to exist in the universe, mostly those on earth (or on earth-made objects in space), could be considered, in itself, evidence that the universe is "not sterile" - the *degree* to which the universe is "not sterile", however, may be an issue of course - in any case - thanks again for your comments - and - Enjoy! :) Drbogdan (talk) 14:46, 5 July 2013 (UTC)
Drbogan - there are dormant microbes on our spacecraft sent to Mars so far, near certainty. It's possible that Mars has been contaminated irreversibly, as the aim all along was a 99.99% certainty to keep it pristine not complete certainty, and there have been some glitches such as crashed spacecraft only sterilized to the requirements for an orbiter rather than a lander. But the consensus seems to be that it probably hasn't been contaminated yet (mainly because of the harshness of the environment on Mars). Chris McKay argues that we should explore Mars in a biologically reversible way so that we can remove the contamination if necessary in the future and it seems reasonably possible that this aim has been achieved so far.`Robert Walker (talk) 15:21, 5 July 2013 (UTC)
@Robert Walker - Thank you for your comments - they're appreciated - makes one wonder about all this I would think - Thanks again for your comments - and - Enjoy! :) Drbogdan (talk) 16:31, 5 July 2013 (UTC)
@Drbogdan thanks glad you liked what I posted, yes lots to think and wonder about, Robert Walker (talk) 21:39, 5 July 2013 (UTC)
Yes the point at question here isn't whether scientists are right to want the spacecraft sterilized, or the space colonists advocates are right to want to be able to forget about contamination issues. So no need to post material to try to settle that question one way or the other. There is a lot published about it on both sides.
It is whether the material about contamination issues associated with a human landing on Mars is notable, and belongs in wikipedia, and where it should be placed if it is. Also about whether an article on human spaceflight that doesn't make those concerns clear is biased. Currently AFAIK there is nothing in Project Mars, since my content was deleted, about contamination issues associated with human colonization except for the one sentence Warren put into this article. Robert Walker (talk) 14:31, 5 July 2013 (UTC)

WP now plans to remove contamination issue pages[edit]

WP plans now to remove the forward and backward contamination issues articles from wikipedia, leaving just a single article in the whole of wikipedia to cover these issues, plus the page on the ICAMSR and his own rewritten back contamination section in the MSR mission page.

This is getting more and more "like a pro-colonization advocacy group rather than an information source" as someone just said to me on facebook.

Talk:Interplanetary_contamination#Merger_proposal_III Robert Walker (talk) 11:32, 9 July 2013 (UTC)

I came to Mars at your request, but your constant whining about Warren Platts is becoming very tiresome. He is wrong in trying to delete all of your contributions, but I now see why he wants to delete them. Robert McClenon (talk) 12:31, 9 July 2013 (UTC)
I don't understand, but understand that you don't want to help me any more, and that's okay you aren't under any obligation to do so of course, and thanks for what you did so far. I'm looking to see if there is anything else I can do. From what I've experienced of the way Wikipedia is run over the last month or two I think there is probably nothing I can do though, and it just will end up with no material on this topic as a result of WP who seems to understand how things work here better than I do. Robert Walker (talk) 13:24, 9 July 2013 (UTC)
To explain why I posted here, maybe wasn't clear. This is the page where I originally wrote the content that was removed, it started out in the concerns section here. It was as a result of a discussion here that I then added it to other articles in Project Mars. So it was a relevant thing to post here to say that all that content has been removed, and also relevant to post here about WPs proposal to remove the forward contamination and backward contamination articles. It's not a "spam post" about it to a random page on Project Mars. I thought editors watching this page and who originally asked for the concerns section to be expanded to correct the bias of this page towards human Mars surface colonization advocacy, and maybe took part in the earlier discussions would want to know. Robert Walker (talk) 14:49, 9 July 2013 (UTC)
Warren has now gone ahead with the merge unilaterally, back contamination is no more and I expect Interplanetary Contamination to be gone pretty soon too as that is his intention and no-one seems to be interested in doing anything to stop him. Robert Walker (talk) 14:57, 9 July 2013 (UTC)
Another lie. The merger was discussed extensively at Talk:Interplanetary contamination#Merger proposal. The vote was 5 in favor of the merger w/ 1 oppose (which of course is User:Robertinventor). Warren Platts (talk) 15:54, 9 July 2013 (UTC)
The merger was undertaken when there was an open discussion on the back contamination page about whether or not to restore a section which I had just added as the D of BRD.
The final decision to merge was made here AFAIK and was proposed by Beefman who is not an admin and nothing to do with project Mars and never writes on astronomy - WP then immediately acted on it - although I protested about the open proposal (which WP was opposed to) this was ignored.
Sorry that I spoke hastily and forgot the actual sequence of events, that WP acted after a suggestion by Beefman.
Warren Platts motivation for all these mergers is given here:

Nah, the reason for consolidating all contamination material into Planetary protection, it'll be easier to keep track of your disruptive POV-pushing

which IMHO is not a good reason for consolodating stubs that need to be expanded and are about significantly different topics - especially immediately after I made the first attempt in its history to add significant content to one of the pages and with open proposal to restore that content to it.
Yes I was the only one strongly opposed to the consolodation but I am also the only editor here who has researched inot the topics or written on them, apart from WP who did his writing by taking my research, and then rewriting it with no new citations of any consequence and removing anything that didn't fit his POV, which hardly counts as research IMHO, and on many occasions has shown that he doesn't know some of the fundamental facts you would find with just an hour or two of google searching for material on the topic.
Whatever, that's my POV, I think several things here were done improperly but whatever, this is what happened as clearly as I can remember it now on calmer reflection. Robert Walker (talk) 05:05, 12 July 2013 (UTC)
Hi Robert. I apologize for writing the above statement. I lost my cool in the heat of the moment. I have deleted it from the talk page. Warren Platts (talk) 21:51, 12 July 2013 (UTC)
Hi Warren, thanks for the apology and thanks for deleting it from the talk page. Robert Walker (talk) 22:17, 12 July 2013 (UTC)

Challenge of crowded conditions[edit]

The list of challenges includes: "The social effects of several humans living under crowded conditions for over one Earth year." Shouldn't that be "several Earth years"? Mars Direct, for instance, calls for 26 Earth months to reach Mars, before sending the planetary mission. Robert McClenon (talk) 01:20, 12 July 2013 (UTC)

Depends on the mission. MSL took a bit under a year to reach Mars, and I think that's about as fast as any craft has got there. Agree a reword for clarity probably in order, but I don't think the 26 months should be taken as a minimum. DanHobley (talk) 19:58, 17 July 2013 (UTC)


Just letting everyone interested in this know that there's now an ArbCom case request about this: Someone not using his real name (talk) 18:57, 15 July 2013 (UTC)

Declined.[2] Apteva (talk) 21:19, 21 July 2013 (UTC)

Mars sample return mission[edit]

The statement is made that a Mars sample return mission is considered a necessary predecessor to a human mission to Mars. Why? To assess any biological danger to humans by analyzing the material? If so, should that statement be made? If not, why?

Crewed orbital missions[edit]

I think this should also mention Zubrin's Athena double flyby - historically the first, and I think, the mission of this type that needs least delta v.

This is the material that was deleted:

Since I wrote that there has been more work on it, especially the Exploration Telerobotics Symposium.

The article no longer mentions the conclusions of HERRO that you could do more scientific discovery for the same budget with a telerobotic exploration of Mars than with a human landing party, because each crew member could operate, typically, three rovers spread out over the surface of Mars via telepresence, and they don't have to suit up (saves an hour or so a day), and then the whole mission cost is also just a fraction of the cost of a mission to the surface as well. HERRO paper argument there, not mine.

That's summarized in that quote in the deleted section.

Just pointing that out, won't try to correct it, but for consideration as possibly deserving mention.

Actually I think there is easily enough on this subject for a small separate article, which this section here could be a short summary of. But won't pursue that any further right now. Robert Walker (talk) 10:16, 22 July 2013 (UTC)


IMHO the "Longboats" section has no place in this article. I can't find any evidence whatever of this idea beyond the original publication, so it looks like it's not contributed to any measurable extent to the topic. I can't see any way of distinguishing it from hundreds of other bright ideas that failed to gain traction. andy (talk) 22:14, 6 March 2014 (UTC)

Third opinion has been sought. Note that the discussion has so far taken place on the user talk pages here and here.andy (talk) 10:32, 7 March 2014 (UTC)

Searchtool-80%.png Response to Third Opinion Request:
Disclaimers: I am responding to a third opinion request made at WP:3O. I have made no previous edits on Manned mission to Mars and cannot recall any prior interaction with the editors involved in this discussion which might bias my response. The third opinion process (FAQ) is informal and I have no special powers or authority apart from being a fresh pair of eyes. Third opinions are not tiebreakers and should not be "counted" in determining whether or not consensus has been reached. My personal standards for issuing third opinions can be viewed here.

Opinion: I've read the two user talk pages in question and have taken a look at the source in question and the website of the publisher, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The paper in question was a conference submission, not a publication in a peer-reviewed journal. If one reviews the conference paper submission guidelines it becomes clear that papers are accepted or rejected for AIAA conferences on the basis of only an abstract, not a full peer review. If approved, the paper is then submitted and presented without further review and then later republished on AIAA's website, also without further review. (AIAA's Principles page also makes it clear that AIAA publishes both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed materials.) This is clearly not a sufficient endorsement by AIAA of the accuracy and validity of conference papers to satisfy Wikipedia's requirement of a reliable source as defined by Wikipedia which is the threshold for inclusion of information in Wikipedia. Instead, it is merely an endorsement that the papers are of sufficient interest to attract attendees to a conference. (AIAA invites the authors of conference papers to also submit them to one of their peer-reviewed journals, but I can find no evidence that this particular paper has been so published.) Not only does this paper not meet Wikipedia's standards as a reliable source, there is a substantial question whether it violates Wikipedia's Spam rule. I note that the editor advocating it for inclusion here has the username Marsadvexpdev and the author of the paper is the president of an organization named "Mars Advanced Exploration and Development". That would seem to be just a bit too much of a coincidence. The Spam rule prohibits, "adding references with the aim of promoting the author or the work being referenced."

What's next: Once you've considered this opinion click here to see what happens next.—TransporterMan (TALK) 17:13, 7 March 2014 (UTC)

Searchtool-80%.png Response to third opinion request:
I can't possibly see how a concept sourced to a single paper without additional coverage could be considered significant enough for inclusion without creating WP:WEIGHT issues, if nothing else. "Spam" issues aside (though I share those concerns), surely we need more than a single individual's opinion to justify inclusion of a particular concept. Stalwart111 10:36, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

After a period of silence the disputed section is now being re-introduced into the article, where it has twice more been deleted by myself and another editor. The matter was extensively discussed at WP/ANI as well as on this talk page. The editor has been invited to engage in constructive discussion, and of course to provide reliable third party sources, but has not done so. He's currently on a level 3 warning for disruptive editing and edit warring. andy (talk) 09:49, 21 March 2014 (UTC)

  1. ^ Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Mars Sample Return Missions (Report). National Research Council. 2009.
  2. ^ NASA Office of Planetary Protection
  3. ^ Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations (Planetary Protection Office Summary) Task Group on Issues in Sample Return. National Academies Press, Washington, DC (1997)
  4. ^ "7: "Sample-Receiving Facility and Program Oversight"". Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Mars Sample Return Missions (Report). National Research Council. 2009. p. 59. "It has been estimated that the planning, design, site selection, environmental reviews, approvals, construction, commissioning, and pre-testing of a proposed SRF will occur 7 to 10 years before actual operations begin.17,18,19 In addition, 5 to 6 years will likely be required for refinement and maturation of SRF-associated technologies for safely containing and handling samples to avoid contamination and to further develop and refine biohazard-test protocols. Many of the capabilities and technologies will either be entirely new or will be required to meet the unusual challenges of integration into an overall (end-to-end) Mars sample return program."
  5. ^ Cite error: The named reference nrc2009_2p28 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).