Even as humans haven't done such fantastic work of saving life on this planet, they are setting up the world's first alien life form containment facility. Discussions are being taken by the European Space Agency (ESA), which will look for various ways in which samples of Mars can be brought to earth.

The first step would be the launch of ESA's ExoMars orbiter, which will touch Mars in October. This will be part of a two-stage joint mission with Russia's space agency Roscosmos. The attempts will be to probe if methane in Mars can indicate life and also set the way for a sample return mission from Mars in the 2020s.

"We have to have a plan for if there are life forms,' said Professor Sara Russell from London's Natural History Museum in the UK.

She is the coordinator of a research project called EURO-CARES. It will develop potential blueprints for the European Sample Curation Facility, transport and re-entry plans for the samples too.

"The chances of us bringing back bugs from Mars is actually very small, but obviously, we have to assume the worst and plan for that," she said. There are complete precautions to see that no bugs are brought back to earth, as it will pollute and destroy the atmosphere here.

And if they do find life on Mars, what are the scientists planning to do?

"Do we sterilise the whole thing straight away, or do we preserve it so we can characterise it and learn about it?" asked Prof. Russell.

Although it would take at least a decade for the re-entry from Mars to take place, Prof Russell wondered if "indestructible and cost-effective re-entry capsules" can be developed.

"We have to think about the risk of what they call a non-nominal landing - essentially a crash landing - and to make sure that the capsule is designed so that it's just totally bombproof, so nothing can get out."

EURO-CARES partner Thales Alenia Space UK Ltd is currently developing the capsule. It would contain a "totally impervious, multi-layered sample container".

''We have to assume the worst and plan for that," said Professor Sara Russell, Natural History Museum, UK.

So far, the US and Soviet moon missions have brought back samples from the moon, while in 2006 NASA's Stardust spacecraft got some comet particles and interstellar dust. Japan's Hayabusa probe picked up pieces of the near-earth asteroid Itokawa in 2010.

Still, Mars is too remote and has not been touched so far, even though it is considered to be a habitable planet. Due to evidence of water and possible life forms there, there is some possibility that some traces of life, as well as samples of rock there, can be brought back.

The guidelines, though, need to be laid down. "If you're bringing back this sort of material to somewhere like the UK or Germany, what are the protocols for that?" said Professor Nigel Mason, from the UK's Open University, coordinator of the Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure to integrate and support planetary science activities across Europe.

This point will be considered by the European space industry and representatives from Japan, China, Russia, and the US.