The White House National Space Council has released the National Strategy for Planetary Protection, an effort to protect Earth and other planets from the potentially harmful biological contamination effects of space exploration.
According to the document “two underlying principles should guide United States planetary protection policy”:
- The United States should continue to lead the development of internationally accepted guidelines for avoiding harmful biological contamination that properly balance the interests of scientific discovery, human exploration, and commercial activities in space; and
- Avoiding harmful biological contamination of the Earth and other planetary bodies supports a safe, sustainable, and predictable Earth and space environment for the foreseeable future.
In line with these foundational principles, the document identifies three overarching objectives and relevant deliverables.
- 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.
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Author: Emily Christian