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Science Snag #1: Mars Parks

(First in a series of science news items that for one reason or another have snagged my interest.)

Charles Cockell, a microbiologist for the British Antarctic Survey, and Gerda Horneck, an astrobiologist from the German Aerospace Centre have proposed a series of conservation parks on Mars. From :

Next time you go for a stroll on Mars, be sure you don't leave any litter behind. A plan to keep parts of the red planet in their pristine state could see seven areas turned into 'planetary parks', regulated just like national parks here on Earth.


Although scientists have found no life on Mars, Cockell and Horneck point out that many national parks on Earth are protected partly for their geological interest and natural beauty, such as the Grand Canyon and Antarctica. "And if Mars has simple microbial life, there are even greater reasons for establishing planetary parks - to protect that life from human destruction," they write.


Cockell and Horneck have mapped out seven different areas for conservation that contain representative features of the martian landscape.

The Polar Park would protect the planet's ice cap for biological studies, while Olympus Park would encompass the Solar System's largest volcano, Olympus Mons, to prevent future mountaineers despoiling it, as has happened with Mount Everest.

Others parks would cover desert areas, impressive meteorite craters and the landing sites of the Viking 1 and Mars Pathfinder spacecraft.

The scientists are keen to see these areas explored, but say that the environmental impact of human activity must be limited. They suggest rules such as "no spacecraft parts to be left in the park", and would allow access only along predefined routes, like hiking trails in terrestrial parks.

Well, Bush said we were going to Mars. I'd say we better get crackin' on this parks idea. Assuming, of course, the Bureau of Land Management hasn't already handed out cut-rate leases on the rest of the Solar System.


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