Category

Recommendation

Report

Piloted Versus Unpiloted Missions

The task group strongly recommends that a sequence of unpiloted missions to Mars be undertaken well in advance of a piloted mission. Any future changes in recommendations to ensure planetary protection, especially for piloted or sample return missions, will depend on the acquisition of new data.

Biological Contamination of Mars: Issues and Recommendations,

NRC, SSB, 1992, p. 8.

 

With regard to these missions, the task group recommends that a broad spectrum of martian sites be examined, with emphasis on measurements that provide data most likely to contribute to models that provide for a better understanding of the probability of life on Mars and where best to go to find it.

Biological Contamination of Mars: Issues and Recommendations,

NRC, SSB, 1992, p. 8.

Societal Issues

A substantial number of active national and international organizations are on the alert for environmental abuse. There is every reason to take seriously the concern (already expressed in some cases) about contamination of Mars and almost certainly about the issue of back contamination of Earth by martian samples. Although public concern over such issues is often sincere and productive, it at times becomes distorted and exaggerated in the media, leading to public misunderstanding and opposition. The task group recommends that NASA inform the public about current planetary protection plans and provide continuing updates concerning Mars exploration and sample return.

Biological Contamination of Mars: Issues and Recommendations,

NRC, SSB, 1992, p. 9.

Legal Issues

There are also legal issues that must be addressed, involving international restrictions as well as federal, state, and local statutes that may come into play. There are currently no binding international agreements concerning forward or back contamination. The task group recommends as essential that efforts be made (1) to assess the legal limits (and implied liabilities) in existing legislation that relates to martian exploration and (2) to pursue the establishment of international standards that will safeguard the scientific integrity of research on Mars. Furthermore, the task group recommends that NASA make a strong effort to obtain international agreement for a planetary protection policy.

Biological Contamination of Mars: Issues and Recommendations,

NRC, SSB, 1992, pp. 9-10.

NASA Planetary Protection Program

Although a planetary protection officer currently exists at NASA, there is no budgeted program (as there was during the Viking Program) to implement needed planetary protection research, a public education program, examination of legal and international issues, and the like. The task group recommends that NASA redefine the responsibilities and authority of its planetary protection officer and provide sufficient resources to carry out the recommendations made in this report.

Biological Contamination of Mars: Issues and Recommendations,

NRC, SSB, 1992, p. 10.



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