The last “garbage” discovered was in mid-August this year.
THE Mars it is now littered with useless man-made objects and unfortunately has no “trash” to collect them. Various sized discarded human things on the neighboring planet are estimated at 7,119 kg or about 7.1 tons.
They come from three sources over the roughly 50 years of planet exploration: discarded parts, crashed spacecraft, and those that are intact but inactive and no longer functional. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, humanity has sent 18 spacecraft on 14 separate missions. Many are still active, but for others Mars has become their “tomb”.
The latest “junk” to be discovered was in mid-August this year, when the US space agency (NASA) announced that the Perseverance rover had found a piece of equipment, a tangled section of netting, that had been ejected during its own landing.
Every mission that attempts to land on the Martian surface smoothly has equipment (heat shield, parachute, etc.) that is discarded during the descent of the craft. When the pre-landing ejecta falls to the ground, it can break into smaller pieces, which are likely to be blown away by strong Martian winds, as was the case with Perseverance’s arrival in 2021. In addition to this rover, other American rovers like Curiosity and Opportunity have run into objects coming from their own landings.
The second largest category of ‘junk’ is the nine currently inactive spacecraft on the planet’s surface, which are: Mars lander 3, Mars lander 6, Viking lander 1, Viking lander 2, Sojourner rover, Beagle lander 2, Phoenix lander, Spirit rover and Opportunity rover. Most of them are almost intact, so in one sense they could be considered historical ‘relics’ rather than rubbish.
The third category, of wrecked vessels, best qualifies as junk. At least two crashed, while four others were lost shortly before or during their landing, so should probably be considered broken up, e.g. due to their faster than expected descent.
If one adds all of the above, then – according to the calculations of roboticist Cagri Kilic of the University of West Virginia – the weight of all human constructions that have been sent to Mars, reaches ten tons (9,979 kg). If from this the weight of the spacecrafts in operation up to now (2,860 kg) is subtracted, then there is garbage weighing 7,119 kg.
Some are concerned about the dangers some of this debris could pose to current and future Mars missions. Can e.g. any rover to get involved in such rubbish. Wait, then, until humans take garbage trucks to the “red” planet, when they colonize it.