Category V is indicative of an Earth-return mission. Details on historical and current PP COSPAR and NASA policies may be found in a recent NRC report on the forward contamination of Mars (NRC 2006). Specific information on the review of proposed projects under NASA guidelines and management directives may be found on NASA’s planetary protection web site (


The Antarctic community, which has seen environmental management rules undergo numerous revisions in policies and requirements over the decades, is now facing the need to address a new science exploration dilemma. What policy, environmental classifications, management scheme, cleanliness levels, and methods should be adopted for the newly discovered and unique subglacial lake and other aquatic environments with its associated ecosystems and how can this be done within the existing legislation? Even though there are some crucial differences in approach, drawing on PP protocols and past experiences in shaping policy may be a useful way to develop a preliminary framework for addressing subglacial aquatic management and contamination control. Ideally, such a framework would link particular concerns and tasks with the appropriate level of the policy or implementation process, as well as identify the relevant responsible groups and utilize their respective expertise.

Minimizing Environmental Impacts

As part of the environmental principles laid out in Article 3 of the protocol there is a requirement that activities in the Antarctic Treaty area be subject to prior assessment of their possible impacts on the Antarctic environment and on associated and dependent ecosystems. Article 8 amplifies this by setting out three levels of possible impact, based on predicting whether the activity will produce a greater or lesser impact than “minor or transitory,” and Annex I details the procedure that should be followed in determining the impacts, possible mitigation, and necessary monitoring. In short, if the impacts are judged less than minor or transitory, this constitutes a preliminary assessment and the activity can be authorized without further restriction or consultation. If the impacts are judged to be minor and/or transitory, an Initial Environmental Evaluation (IEE) is required, which must follow the required procedures but is not subject to international assessment, although the CEP should be notified at its next meeting and the IEE should be available on request. Where the impact is expected to be more than minor and/or transitory then a full Comprehensive Environmental Evaluation (CEE) is required. This is a major undertaking and uses a two-stage procedure. The first stage is a draft that must be made publicly available and circulated to all parties at least 120 days before the next ATCM. The CEP provides the forum for the discussion of this draft CEE and any comments on it. A final version of the CEE must then be prepared, addressing the comments made, and again circulated to all parties at least 60 days before the commencement of any activity in the Antarctic. As with all activities required under the treaty, the initiative and responsibility both for preparing the CEE and for implementing it rest entirely with the sponsoring party.

This procedure applies to all parties, but these are not binding despite the development of detailed procedural guidelines based on Annex I and approved as Resolution 1 by the XXIII ATCM in 1999. There is wide variation in the enthusiasm with which the

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