The White House, this week, released a National Strategy for Planetary Protection, which refers to the policy and practice of protecting future scientific investigations by limiting biological contamination of other planetary bodies through exploration activities and protecting the Earth’s biosphere by avoiding harmful biological contamination by returning spacecraft.
These carefully chalked out strategies are intended to secure United States interests in promoting scientific discovery, human exploration, and the growth of private-sector space activities, all with due consideration for public safety and applicable obligations.
According to the latest directives, the strategy sets forth three overarching objectives corresponding to forward contamination, backward contamination, and private sector coordination:
Objective 1: Avoid harmful forward contamination by developing and implementing risk assessment and science-based guidelines and updating the interagency payload review process.
Objective 2: Avoid backward contamination by developing a Restricted Return Program to protect against adverse effects on the Earth environment due to the potential return of extraterrestrial life.
Objective 3: Incorporate the perspective and needs of the private sector by soliciting feedback and developing guidelines regarding private sector activities with potential planetary protection implications.
The strategy is designed to implement a portion of the updated National Space Policy, released Dec. 9, that calls on OSTP, in cooperation with NASA and other agencies, to develop new planetary protection guidelines “working with scientific, commercial, and international partners, for the appropriate protection of planetary bodies and Earth from harmful biological contamination.”
“Current and future missions to Mars and other destinations necessitate a strategy to support a safe, sustainable, and predictable Earth and space environment. By establishing objectives for the implementation of the 2020 National Space Policy’s direction on planetary protection, this strategy continues American leadership in scientific discovery, human exploration, and private sector space activities,”Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council, said in a statement.