PUBLISHED: 11:59, Wed, Jan 6, 2021 | UPDATED: 12:00, Wed, Jan 6, 2021
The White House late last year released a national strategy for planetary protection in a landmark attempt to prevent terrestrial contamination of alien worlds and vice versa. This National Strategy for Planetary Protection was created by the National Space Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
The paper’s impetus was driven by revolutionary technological advances and the growing influence of private companies in space exploration.
Current and future missions to Mars and other destinations necessitate a strategy to support a safe, sustainable, and predictable Earth and space environment
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The new protocols have been created to implement a portion of December’s updated National Space Policy.
This called for NASA and other agencies such as the SpaceX 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.”
Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council, wrote: “Current and future missions to Mars and other destinations necessitate a strategy to support a safe, sustainable, and predictable Earth and space environment.
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“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.”
The planetary protection strategy outlined three key objectives.
The first involved creating a “risk assessment and science-based guidelines” for minimising “forward contamination” – meaning the contamination of alien planets by terrestrial life.
They also urged an assessment of the role of planetary protection to be made in the White