August 1, 2019.
Planetary Protection involves the development and implementation of policies and requirements to protect solar system bodies from forward and backward contamination during human or robotic space missions. As stipulated by the United Nations Outer Space Treaty (Article IX) and interpreted by the Committee on Space Research, over 100 nations abide by the treaty and its objectives. Since the beginning of the space age, NASA has complied with planetary protection requirements across more than 250 robotic and human missions, especially those involving Mars, which is a planet with potentially habitable conditions for microbial life. A sample of past, current, and future missions can serve to illustrate how planetary protection practices have been used to protect Mars regardless of mission target. Since the recent reorganization of NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection to the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, there is a need for updating websites, revising training materials and courses, and considering how the international policies will apply to commercial missions specifically those with target bodies with potential for microbial life. Goals of this internship project where to gather, summarize, and organize existing materials about planetary protection from the public domain. Another goal was to cover the history of planetary protection by considering how NASA center and partners are supporting planetary protection (lab capabilities, curations, methods, and techniques.) Specifically, the objective of this document and compilation is to provide the Planetary Protection Office with a comprehensive summary of historical and current information to be used for multiple purposes.
The 2019 STEM Teacher and Researcher Program and this project were made possible through support from Chevron (www.chevron.com), the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (www.marinesanctuary.org), the National Science Foundation through the Robert Noyce Program under Grant #1836335 and 1340110, the California State University Office of the Chancellor, and California Polytechnic State University in partnership with SETI Institute. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funders.