A private Mars colony project will do its best to avoid disturbing potential Red Planet life rather than aggressively hunt it down.
The Netherlands-based nonprofit Mars One, which opened its astronaut-selection process today (April 22), plans to land four people on the Red Planet in 2023 as the vanguard of a permanent human colony on the Red Planet, with new crews arriving every two years thereafter.
Human explorers and their trillions of microbes will doubtless contaminate whatever site is chosen for the settlement, Mars One officials said, so the organization will try to pick a place unlikely to host indigenous life. [Mars One: Colonizing the Red Planet (Gallery)]
"The most important thing is that you localize the pollution," Mars One CEO and co-founder Bas Lansdorp said during a press conference today. "So you make sure that humans don't go to places where there's the highest chance of finding life, to make sure that if there is life [on Mars], that it will remain preserved."
Mars One is working with experts to minimize the risks its colonization effort may pose to potential Red Planet lifeforms. For example, the group's advisory board includes John Rummel, who chairs the Committee on Space Research's Panel on Planetary Protection, Lansdorp said.