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4 Goals of and Rationales for Planetary Protection Policies
Pages 6-10

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From page 6...
... THE GOALS OF PLANETARY PROTECTION In identifying the goals of planetary protection policies, the committee reviewed formal documents that NASA officials and staff are required to use in fulfilling their responsibilities. The most recent document is the NASA Interim Directive on Planetary Protection Provisions for Robotic Extraterrestrial Missions.1 The NASA directive explicitly addresses the following two issues: (1)
From page 7...
... The focus on preventing biological contamination of other solar system bodies also protects the right other countries have under the Outer Space Treaty to conduct astrobiological exploration of the same bodies. The second rationale -- to assure the biological integrity of the environment of other worlds for future science missions -- recognizes that two leading imperatives of planetary exploration have been, and remain, to search other solar system bodies for evidence of life, past or present, and to assess the potential of selected bodies to support life, to have harbored it in the past, or to preserve evidence of prebiotic chemical evolution.
From page 8...
... Substantial reservoirs of liquid water are believed to exist beneath the icy crusts of, for example, Europa and Enceladus. Whereas the inadvertent transfer of viable terrestrial organisms to Mars might cause local contamination only, the introduction of similar lifeforms to a subsurface ocean will cause the global contamination of a potential biosphere.10 ANOTHER POTENTIAL RATIONALE FOR PLANETARY PROTECTION COSPAR and NASA documents have contained these rationales since the dawn of the space age, and they form the bedrock of planetary protection policies.
From page 9...
... However, molecular biology has advanced considerably in the last 20 years, and the committee needs to investigate more thoroughly whether new methods in molecular biology make false positive and negative results in biohazard assessments conducted on returned samples far less likely.17 The committee recognizes that how and to what degree planetary protection policies should safeguard mission science represents an important and debated question. The need to distinguish more clearly between sample cleanliness for scientific reasons and sample cleanliness for planetary protection also affects the roles and responsibilities of the mission science team and the planetary protection team.
From page 10...
... Nor does the interim report address all possible rationales for planetary protection, including the claim that the natural environments of extraterrestrial bodies should be preserved in their natural state. The three rationales that the committee identified and used in developing the working definition reflect NASA policy, COSPAR guidance, and the planning and design of ongoing missions to, for example, Mars and Europa.

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