While Earth continues to worry about the COVID-19 pandemic, one researcher is worried about extraterrestrial viruses.

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While Earth continues to worry about the COVID-19 pandemic, one researcher is worried about extraterrestrial viruses.

Former NASA Ames director Scott Hubbard expressed his concern that future rock samples from Mars need to be checked and quarantined.

"I heard from some colleagues in the human spaceflight area that they can see how the general public could be more concerned about bringing some alien virus," Hubbard told the Stanford News.

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Treat Perseverance rover like a virus

Hubbard, who now teaches aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University, said the rock samples delivered back by the Perseverance rover should be "quarantined." 

The New York Post reported that when astronauts return from Mars in the 2030s, they'll have to be quarantined as rock samples from the Red Planet could be as dangerous as Ebola. Hubbard said Mars Rover "should be handled like it's the Ebola virus until marked safe."

Items from outer space should also be "baked at a high temperature" before being competently examined, Hubbard said.

However, he said the chance that rocks from Mars that are millions of years old will contain an active life form that could infect Earth is meager.

Hubbard notes that even though heat itself is not enough to decontaminate the items, combining the system with chemical cleaning can be efficient.

NASA, which recently renamed the rover to Perseverance, will release the unmanned rover on July 17, 2020. In March, the pandemic has not yet impacted launch preps, with work "continuing on schedule." The space agency has yet to comment on Hubbard's statement.

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"As for humans, the Apollo astronauts from the first few moon missions were quarantined to ensure they showed no signs of illness," Hubbard explained. Once the moon did not pose a risk, Hubbard said the quarantine was eliminated. Such a procedure will undoubtedly be followed for humans returning from Mars, he added.

Apollo 11 astronauts recalled three-week quarantine

Upon returning from the first mission to the moon in 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins have been quarantined for three weeks. Aldrin lately recounted his experience during the quarantine on social media.

Collins, who said the trio had been "just ordinary astronauts," said the quarantine was dependent upon the health of a "huge colony of white mice" that have been with them.

"The three of us had gone to the Moon - either a national, international, triumph, or it was a total disaster depending on the white mice that we had," Collins said. He added everything was okay if the mice lived.

The Perseverance rover will detect any fossilized proof of extraterrestrial beings on Mars. Once the rover lands on the Red Planet, it will join the nonetheless functioning Curiosity rover and the now-deceased Opportunity rover on the Martian planet. Unlike Curiosity or Opportunity, Perseverance rover will carry the "first helicopter to fly on another planet," NASA said.

NASA's long-term goal is to ship an unmanned journey to Mars in the 2030s.

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