Handle with care.
Rock And Roll
NASA has announced that it's setting up a facility specifically designed to house Mars rock samples collected by its Perseverance Mars rover — which may contain traces of ancient Martian life.
According to the agency, the new facility will be located at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and will be geared towards "receiving and curating" the extremely rare rocks as safely as possible.
Known as the Mars Sample Receiving (MSR) project, this endeavor is, per NASA, "expected to be the most complex robotic space flight campaign ever attempted," and is scheduled to kick off in about a decade once the samples make their way back to Earth.
It certainly won't be an easy task. The samples, which are being prepared by NASA's rover on the Martian surface, will have to be picked up by the European Space Agency's rover, which is still in development, before making their long journey back home.
Not everybody is happy about the prospect of bringing Martian rocks to Earth.
Scientists have raised concerns with NASA's previous plans to have the Air Force house the samples over fears that the military could end up mishandling potentially dangerous alien contaminants.
"I think that it's a very low probability that there's anything living at the surface of Mars," Louisiana State University geologist Peter Doran told NPR last May. "But there is a possibility."
In an effort to quell these fears, NASA claims in a factsheet that scientists "have found an extremely low likelihood that samples collected from areas on Mars like those being explored" because Martian samples had already been crashing to Earth in the form of meteorites.
In short, we should just be glad the task will be in the hands of the actual experts and not some random military dudes.
More on Mars rocks: NASA Discovers Precious Gemstones on Mars