Should outer space be preserved as a pristine laboratory for scientific research? Or should standards be relaxed to allow humans and all of their attendant gear and microbes to colonize Mars, the moon, and elsewhere? This article from Foreign Policy takes the latter view:
"For [Elon] Musk, Jeff Bezos, and other space visionaries, the solar system is filled with nearly unlimited natural resources that will relieve pressure on the Earth’s fragile environment, grow the U.S. economy exponentially, and propel humanity toward its destiny in the stars. Yet, Musk’s shining city on Mars and Bezos’s lunar ice mines are not universally celebrated. There is a group in the space community who view the solar system not as an opportunity to expand human potential but as a nature preserve, forever the provenance of an elite group of scientists and their sanitary robotic probes. These planetary protection advocates such as Monica Grady demand the strictest interpretation of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which calls for avoiding “harmful contamination” of celestial bodies. ... It’s also important to note that many international competitors will ignore the demands of these protection extremists in any case. ... Forcing NASA’s proposed Mars exploration to do better, scrubbing everything and hauling out all the trash, would destroy NASA’s human exploration budget and encroach on the agency’s other directorates, too. Getting future astronauts off Mars is enough of a challenge, without trying to tote weeks of waste along as well. ... A reasonable compromise is to continue on the course laid out by the U.S. government and the National Research Council, which proposed a system of zones on Mars, some for science only, some for habitation, and some for resource exploitation. This approach minimizes contamination, maximizes scientific exploration, and allows for Musk’s city."
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