Scientist calls for protection of geological, historical sites on other planets

None This illustration made available by NASA on March 29, 2018 shows the twin Mars Cube One (MarCO) spacecraft flying over Mars with Earth and the sun in the distance. The MarCOs will be the first CubeSats - a kind of modular, mini-satellite - flown into deep space. They’re designed to fly along behind NASA’s InSight lander on its cruise to Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

A Canadian scientist is calling for action to protect significant geological and historical features on the moon, Mars, and other planets.

Jack Matthews, of Memorial University of Newfoundland, says as nations and private companies increasingly explore and develop outer space, there’s a growing threat to extraterrestrial environments.

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He says a global agreement to protect the most important sites is needed before it’s too late.

Matthews, a post-doctoral fellow in Memorial’s Department of Earth Sciences, and Sean McMahon of the U.K. Centre for Astrobiology have just published a paper on the topic.

Matthews says their proposal wouldn’t stand in the way of exploration or resource development, but would protect places like Valles Marineris – known as the Mars version of the Grand Canyon – and the Apollo 11 moon landing site, where humans first stepped on another celestial body.

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He says it could take years to produce an agreement, so discussion and debate needs to start now.

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