Planetary Protection for the Journey to Mars
Since the dawn of space travel, nations from around the world have shown a commitment to protecting objects in the Solar System from contamination carried from the Earth and into space by spacecraft. The same is true for backward contamination when spacecraft, or human crew, travel back to our planet. Planetary protection policies have long been in place regarding robotic missions to Mars. Through decades of research, these policies have been refined to reflect increasing knowledge of the martian environment and our understanding of the limits of life on Earth.
A new paper, Advances in Planetary Protection Ahead of the “Journey to Mars”, outlines progress towards developing a planetary protection policy that addresses planned human exploration of Mars. The policy concepts are based on the output of the 2015 workshop on Planetary Protection Knowledge Gaps for Human Extraterrestrial Missions. The paper also describes the potential for a NASA Procedural Requirements document (NPR) in the future. The work was presented at the 46th International Conference on Environmental Systems, held July 10-14, 2016, in Vienna, Austria.