NASA’s Planetary Protection Review Addresses Changing Reality of Space Exploration
NASA released a report with recommendations from the Planetary Protection Independent Review Board (PPIRB) the agency established in response to a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report and a recommendation from the NASA Advisory Council.
With NASA, international, and commercial entities planning bold missions to explore our solar system and return samples to Earth, the context for planetary protection is rapidly changing. NASA established the PPIRB to conduct a thorough review of the agency’s policies.
Planetary protection establishes guidelines for missions to other solar system bodies so they are not harmfully contaminated for scientific purposes by Earth biology, and Earth, in turn, is protected from harmful contamination from space.
The board’s report assesses a rapidly changing environment where more samples from other solar system bodies will be returned to Earth. Commercial and international entities are discussing new kinds of solar system missions, and NASA’s Artemis program is planning human missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.
The report discusses 34 findings and 43 recommendations from the PPIRB, which was chaired by planetary scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute to address future NASA missions and proposed missions by other nations and the private sector that include Mars sample return, robotic missions to other bodies, eventual human missions to Mars, and the exploration of ocean worlds in the outer solar system.
NASA plans to begin a dialogue about recommendation from the PPIRB report with stakeholders and international and commercial partners to help build a new chapter for conducting planetary missions and planetary protection policies and procedures.
For more information about planetary protection, visit: https://sma.nasa.gov/sma-disciplines/planetary-protection.