A new paper presents the case for updating the current planetary protection policy applied to “special regions on Mars” based on new information about Earth organisms. Mars’ “Special Regions” are areas where exploration missions must undergo strict planetary protection measures prior to launch due to the fact that environmental conditions in the region could be conducive to the growth of microorganisms from Earth.

The study, “Planetary Protection and Mars Special Regions – A Suggestion for Updating the Definition” was published in the journal Astrobiology. The work was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) element of the NASA Astrobiology Program.