Assessment of the Report
of NASA’s Planetary Protection
Independent Review Board
Committee to Review the Report of the
NASA Planetary Protection Independent Review Board
Space Studies Board
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
A Consensus Study Report of
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
This activity was supported by Contract No. NNH17CB02B with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-67649-6
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-67649-5
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25773
Copies of this publication are available free of charge from:
Space Studies Board
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Additional copies of this publication are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu.
Copyright 2020 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Assessment of the Report of NASA’s Planetary Protection Independent Review Board. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25773.
The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. John L. Anderson is president.
The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to advise the nation on medical and health issues. Members are elected by their peers for distinguished contributions to medicine and health. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president.
The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine.
Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.nationalacademies.org.
Consensus Study Reports published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document the evidence-based consensus on the study’s statement of task by an authoring committee of experts. Reports typically include findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on information gathered by the committee and the committee’s deliberations. Each report has been subjected to a rigorous and independent peer-review process and it represents the position of the National Academies on the statement of task.
Proceedings published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine chronicle the presentations and discussions at a workshop, symposium, or other event convened by the National Academies. The statements and opinions contained in proceedings are those of the participants and are not endorsed by other participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies.
For information about other products and activities of the National Academies, please visit www.nationalacademies.org/about/whatwedo.
COMMITTEE TO REVIEW THE REPORT OF THE NASA PLANETARY PROTECTION INDEPENDENT REVIEW BOARD
JOSEPH ALEXANDER, Alexander Space Policy Consultants, Chair
DAVID FIDLER, Washington University School of Law and Council on Foreign Relations
G. SCOTT HUBBARD, Stanford University
ROSALY LOPES, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
MARGARITA MARINOVA, Independent consultant
H. JAY MELOSH, NAS,1 Purdue University
KIRSTEN SIEBACH, Rice University
CAROLINE SMITH, Natural History Museum, London
TRISTA VICK-MAJORS, Michigan Technological University
A. THOMAS YOUNG, NAE,2 Lockheed Martin (Retired)
DAVID H. SMITH, Senior Program Officer, Study Director
MIA BROWN, Research Associate
GAYBRIELLE HOLBERT, Program Assistant
JORDAN McKAIG, Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Intern
OSASE OMORUYI, Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Intern
COLLEEN N. HARTMAN, Director, Space Studies Board
1 Member, National Academy of Sciences.
2 Member, National Academy of Engineering.
SPACE STUDIES BOARD
MARGARET G. KIVELSON, NAS,1 University of California, Los Angeles, Chair
JAMES H. CROCKER, NAE,2 Lockheed Martin (retired), Vice Chair
GREGORY P. ASNER, NAS, Carnegie Institution for Science
JEFF M. BINGHAM, Consultant
ADAM BURROWS, NAS, Princeton University
MARY LYNNE DITTMAR, Dittmar Associates
JEFF DOZIER, University of California, Santa Barbara
VICTORIA E. HAMILTON, Southwest Research Institute
CHRYSSA KOUVELIOTOU, NAS, George Washington University
DENNIS P. LETTENMAIER, NAE, University of California, Los Angeles
ROSALY M. LOPES, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
STEPHEN J. MACKWELL, American Institute of Physics
DAVID J. McCOMAS, Princeton University
LARRY PAXTON, Johns Hopkins University, Applied Physics Laboratory
ELIOT QUATAERT, University of California, Berkeley
MARK SAUNDERS, NASA (retired)
BARBARA SHERWOOD LOLLAR, University of Toronto
HOWARD SINGER, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
HARLAN E. SPENCE, University of New Hampshire
MARK H. THIEMENS, NAS, University of California, San Diego
ERIKA WAGNER, Blue Origin
PAUL WOOSTER, Space Exploration Technologies
EDWARD L. WRIGHT, NAS, University of California, Los Angeles
COLLEEN N. HARTMAN, Director
TANJA PILZAK, Manager, Program Operations
CELESTE A. NAYLOR, Information Management Associate
MARGARET A. KNEMEYER, Financial Officer
RADAKA LIGHTFOOT, Financial Associate
1 Member, National Academy of Sciences.
2 Member, National Academy of Engineering.
On August 16, 2019, Thomas H. Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate wrote to Margaret Kivelson, chair of the Space Studies Board (SSB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, informing her that recent reviews by the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) and the National Academies—specifically Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes1 (hereinafter the “2018 report”)—have raised concerns as to whether the consensus planetary protection guidelines maintained by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) were being outpaced by advances in science and technology (see Appendix A). Through planetary protection policies, all major spacefaring nations since the dawn of the Space Age attempt to minimize, if not preclude, the biological cross-contamination of planetary bodies, including Earth.
As a result of these concerns, Associate Administrator Zurbuchen announced he had chartered a group of experts—the Planetary Protection Independent Review Board (PPIRB)—“to update COSPAR’s guidelines on biological contamination” (see Appendix A). Dr. Zurbuchen noted that the report of the PPIRB2 would be completed by September 2019 and requested that the SSB undertake the task to review the work of the PPIRB. Subsequent discussions between NASA and the National Academies agreed that the requested review would address the following statement of task:
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will establish an ad hoc committee to review the findings of the PPIRB report and comment on their consistency with the recommendations of the recent report, Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes.
In response to NASA’s request, the National Academies established the Committee to Review the Report of the NASA Planetary Protection Independent Review Board in early November. The committee held meetings in 2019 at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., on November 20-22, and at the Beckman Center in Irvine, California, on December 16-17. A subgroup of the committee’s members held a writing meeting at the
1 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2018.
2 Planetary Protection Independent Review Board, NASA Planetary Protection Independent Review Board (PPIRB): Report to NASA/SMD: Final Report, NASA, Washington, D.C., 2019, https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/planetary_protection_board_report_20191018.pdf.
headquarters of the Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, on January 20-21, 2020, and a complete draft of the report was sent to external reviewers on February 14. The report was revised in response to reviewer comments in March and approved for public release on March 26.
Although the statement of task called for the committee to “review the findings” of the PPIRB report and “comment on their consistency with the recommendations” of the 2018 report, the committee interpreted its charge to mean that it was to review the findings and recommendations of the PPIRB report for consistency with the findings and recommendations of the 2018 report. In cases where the PPIRB report considered issues not addressed in the 2018 report, the committee drew on other reports from the National Academies, briefings to the committee, or other publicly available information to assess consistency with the content of the 2018 report or to determine whether the committee agreed with the PPIRB’s conclusions.
The work of the committee was assisted by many important inputs made by the following individuals: C. Philip Brinkman (Federal Aviation Administration), T. Jens Feeley (NASA Headquarters), Lori Glaze (NASA Headquarters), Christopher Johnson (Secure World Foundation), Michael Meyer (NASA Headquarters), Michael New (NASA Headquarters), Lisa Pratt (NASA Headquarters), Benjamin Roberts (Moon Express), Andrew Spry (SETI Institute), S. Alan Stern (Southwest Research Institute), Ryan Whitley (National Space Council), and Thomas H. Zurbuchen (NASA Headquarters).
The committee reserves special thanks to Jennifer Vaughn and James Bell, respectively, the chief operating officer and president of the Planetary Society, for making their Pasadena headquarters available for the committee’s use during its January 2020 writing meeting.
This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Jerome Apt III (Carnegie Mellon University), Bethany Ehlmann (California Institute of Technology), Dan Hendrickson (Astrobotic), Brian Israel (University of California, Berkeley), James Kasting (NAS, Pennsylvania State University), Robert Lindberg (independent consultant, Williamsburg, Virginia), Jonathan I. Lunine (NAS, Cornell University), Melissa A. McGrath (SETI Institute), Eric Rignot (NAS, University of California, Irvine).
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Steven Battel (NAE, Battel Engineering, Inc.). He was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of the report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.
The National Academies’ Study of the Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes
Reorganization of COSPAR’s Panel on Planetary Protection and NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection
NASA’s Planetary Protection Independent Review Board
2 ASSESSMENT OF THE PPIRB’S FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
General and Overarching Findings and Recommendations
Planetary Protection Categorization
Private-Sector Initiatives and Missions
3 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Areas of Inconsistency and Concern
Strategic Findings and Recommendations
Expediting the Development of New Approaches to Planetary Protection
A Letter Requesting this Study
B Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes: Findings and Recommendations
C Report of NASA’s Planetary Protection Independent Review Board: Findings and Recommendations
E Planetary Protection Categories