Mars is filled with 15,694 pounds of human trash from 50 years of robotic exploration

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People have been exploring the surface of Mars for More than 50 years. according to United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairssent countries 18 man-made pieces of Mars More than 14 separate missions. Many of these missions are still ongoing, but over the decades of Mars exploration, humanity has left behind many pieces of debris on the planet’s surface.

I Postdoctoral Research Fellow Which studies ways to track Mars and the wandering Moon. In mid-August 2022, NASA confirmed that the Persevering Mars rover had spotted a discarded piece of junk during its descent, this time a tangled mess of nets. This is not the first time that scientists have found garbage on the surface of Mars. This is because there is so much out there.

A smashed, round white metal object on the surface of Mars.
All spacecraft that land on Mars release equipment – such as this protective shell – on their way to the surface of Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Where does debris come from?

Debris on Mars comes from three main sources: discarded instruments, inactive spacecraft, and crashed spacecraft.

Every mission on Mars requires a lonliness that protects the spacecraft. This unit includes a heat shield when the craft passes through the planet’s atmosphere, a parachute and landing gear so it can land quietly.

The craft discards bits of the unit as it descends, and these chunks can land at various locations on the planet’s surface — there might be a low heat shield in one place and a parachute in another. When this debris hits the ground, it can break into smaller pieces, such as It happened during the landing of the Perseverance rover in 2021. These small pieces can then be blown away by the Martian winds.

A little tangled piece of netting on the surface of Mars.
The Perseverance rover found this piece of the grid on July 12, 2022, more than a year after it landed on Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech

A lot of small litter blown by the wind has been found over the years – like netting material recently found. Earlier in the year, on June 13, 2022, the Perseverance rover spotted a large, shiny thermal blanket embedded in some rocks 1.25 miles (2 km) from where the rover landed. Both Curiosity in 2012 And the opportunity in 2005 They also found wreckage from their landing vehicles.

Three images showing black soot and debris from above.
The European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander crashed onto the surface of Mars in 2016, as seen in these images of the crash site taken by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover. NASA/JPL-Caltech/University. Arizona

Dead and Crashing Spaceships

The Nine inactive spacecraft on Mars Form the next type of debris. These vehicles are Mars 3 Lander, Mars 6 Lander, Viking 1 Lander, Viking 2 Lander, Sojourner Rover, and Previously lost Beagle 2 landerPhoenix, Spirit, and the latest deceased spacecraft are the Opportunity rover. Mostly intact, these historical monuments may be considered better than rubbish.

Wear and tear affects everything on Mars. some parts Curiosity’s aluminum wheels crashed They are assumed to be scattered along the rover’s path. Some purposeful rubbish, with perseverance After dropping a drill on the roof In July 2021, allowing her Switch in a new original bit So he can continue to collect samples.

Picture of Curiosity's wheels with visible holes.
Curiosity’s wheels have been damaged over the years, leaving behind small pieces of aluminum. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Wrecked spacecraft and their parts are another important source of waste. At least two spacecraft crashed, and four others lost contact before or just after landing. Getting down safely to the planet’s surface is the hardest part of any Mars landing mission – and it’s It doesn’t always end well.

When you add the mass of all the spacecraft sent to Mars, you get about 22,000 pounds (9,979 kg). Subtract the weight of the rover currently operating on the surface – 6,306 lb (2,860 kg) – and you’re left with 15,694 lb (7,119 kg) of human debris on Mars.

Why is trash important?

Today, scientists’ primary concern about litter on Mars is the risks it poses to current and future missions. Perseverance teams document all debris they find and examine them to see if any could contaminate the samples collected by the rover. NASA engineers have also studied whether perseverance can get entangled in landing debris but this has already happened It is concluded that the risk is low.

The real reason the debris on Mars is so important is its place in history. Spacecraft and its parts are the early stages of human planet exploration.

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