mittee for Environmental Protection as well as a legal group, while the second week is devoted to Plenary sessions and parallel meetings of three Working Groups: Operational Matters; Tourism; and Non-governmental Matters, Legal and Institutional.
As well as an agreed report from the Plenary the legal outcomes of an ATCM are measures, decisions, and resolutions. The agenda is structured around working papers (in four languages), which can be submitted by Consultative Parties and observers, and information papers, which can be submitted by any parties, observers, or experts. The convention is that all working papers must have substantive discussion while information papers are discussed only by request. Discussions at all official committees of the ATCM must take place with simultaneous translation into English, French, Spanish, and Russian, which have been the four working languages of the Antarctic Treaty since its ratification.
Science discussions may take place in any of the working groups of committees, but they are principally restricted to the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP) and the Operational Matters Working Group. Subglacial lakes have been on the agendas for both of these groups for several years. Although there may be some overlap in discussions, the demarcation is generally clear, with issues of environmental protection, management, and pollution going to the CEP and reports on the science from the lakes going to the Operational Matters Working Group.
Establishment of the CEP was part of the adoption of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty in 1991. The protocol systematically reorganized all the previously agreed instruments on the environment and conservation and with its six annexes now provides the most substantive focus for annual discussions at the ATCM. Annex V to the protocol contains the provisions for area protection and management.
A comparison between planetary protection for the solar system and environmental stewardship of Antarctic environments reveals a number of similarities, ranging from the basic governances to their science-driven policies as well as the similar approach to oversight and review of individual projects by designated government institutions. The comparison also reveals some important differences in how revisions are made at the international level.
Planetary protection (PP) refers to the name given to the policy of the international Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) aimed at preventing biological contamination of other worlds (forward contamination) and avoiding potential contamination of Earth by returned extraterrestrial materials, referred to as back contamination (NASA 1999; COSPAR 2002; Rummel 2006).
Planetary protection has been a topic of concern since the earliest years of space exploration and was part of international deliberations for the Outer Space Treaty even before the launch of Sputnik. Initially signed in 1967, the Outer Space Treaty was ratified and has been acceded to by 98 nations over the years. With underlying concepts drawn from the earlier Antarctic Treaty, the Outer Space Treaty prohibits the placement of nuclear or other weapons into orbit, forbids the militarization of space, and asserts that the use and exploration of outer space will be guided by cooperation and mutual assistance, used exclusively for peaceful purposes, and done in a way that avoids harmful contamination of celestial bodies and adverse changes in the environ-