The Mars Curiosity Rover is a fantastic success of science and engineering so far. But on this trip the odds are extremely low that they’ll find any sign of life, current or past. But what will happen if and when we do find life and what will it look like?
No I’m not talking about the alien species itself, I’m talking about how humans will react:
The United Nations is almost bound to set up an agency to oversee what experiments are planned, but the U.S. may prefer a different body. Private consortia may conceivably start to plan how to go and retrieve a sample, dreaming of the riches to be garnered from displaying it on Earth. If so, nongovernmental organizations will quickly begin to worry about the safety of such a scheme and to champion the rights of Martian microbes to be conserved and respected in their lairs.
In other words, the discovery of extraterrestrial life would produce some predictably messy earthly responses.
Thankfully we do have some rules in place if we were to ever receive a radio signal from intelligent species. But this is a sad reminder that humans will somehow find a way to screw things up.