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Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes (2018)

Chapter: Appendix D: NASA's Planetary Protection Research Program

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: NASA's Planetary Protection Research Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25172.
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D

NASA’s Planetary Protection Research Program

NASA’s annual Research Opportunities in Earth and Planetary Sciences (ROSES) solicitation for research proposals describes the scope of the Planetary Protection Research program as follows:1

Planetary protection involves preventing biological contamination on both outbound and sample return missions to other planetary bodies. Numerous areas of research in astrobiology/exobiology are improving our understanding of the potential for survival of Earth microbes in extraterrestrial environments, relevant to preventing contamination of other bodies by organisms carried on spacecraft. Research is required to improve NASA’s understanding of the potential for both forward and backward contamination, how to minimize it, and to set standards in these areas for spacecraft preparation and operating procedures. Improvements in technologies and methods for evaluating the potential for life in returned samples are also of interest. Many of these research areas derive directly from recent National Research Council (NRC) recommendations on planetary protection for solar system exploration missions (see http://planetaryprotection.nasa.gov/documents/ for online reports and a list of publications).

As a complement to the Exobiology program (see program element C.5), the Planetary Protection Research (PPR) program solicits research in the following areas:

  • Characterize the limits of life in laboratory simulations of planetary environments or in appropriate Earth analogs. Of particular interest are studies on the potential and dynamics of organism survival and reproduction in conditions present on the surface or subsurface of Mars (e.g., gullies and ice-rich environments), or on Europa and other icy satellites—potentially in the presence of a heat source brought from Earth.
  • Model planetary environmental conditions and transport processes that could permit mobilization of spacecraft-associated contaminants to locations in which Earth organisms might thrive, for example Mars Special Regions or the subsurface of icy bodies, such as Europa and other outer planet satellites.
  • Develop or adapt modern molecular analytical methods to rapidly detect, classify, and/or enumerate the widest possible spectrum of Earth microbes carried by spacecraft (on surfaces and/or in bulk materials, especially at low densities) before, during, and after assembly and launch processing. Of particular interest are methods capable of identifying microbes with high potential for surviving spacecraft flight or planetary environmental conditions (e.g., anaerobes, psychrophiles, radiation-resistant organisms).

___________________

1 NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System, Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences 2018, Solicitation NNH18ZDA001N-PPR, “Planetary Protection Research,” released February 14, 2018, https://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/solicitations/summary!init.do?solId={3C61CFE1-591A-1683-ED8A-047843D6F167}&path=open, Appendix C.15.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: NASA's Planetary Protection Research Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25172.
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  • Identify and provide proof-of-concept on new or improved methods, technologies, and procedures for spacecraft sterilization that are compatible with spacecraft materials and assemblies.

Projects funded via this program in the period 2005-2014 are shown in Table D.1.

TABLE D.1 Projects Funded via NASA’s Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) Planetary Protection Research Program During the Period 2005-2014

ROSES Year Proposals Received Proposals Funded PPO Research Funding* (dollars in thousands) PPO Total Funding* (dollars in thousands) Principal Investigator Title of Proposal
2005 Unknown 1 John Moore, Colorado School of Mines Development of self-sustaining, high temperature synthesis combustion for contingency sterilization of a sample return mission
2006 22 4 $910 $2000 William Hug, Photon Systems, Inc. Deep ultraviolet instrument for instant bioload classification
Adrian Ponce, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Evaluating the probability of growth for Earth microorganisms in special regions on Mars
Kasthuri Venkateswaran, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Microbial characterization of the Phoenix spacecraft and its payload facility
Jaroslava Wilcox, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Qualification of low-energy e-beam irradiation for sterilization of s/c surfaces
2007 13 6 $790 $2000 Mark Anderson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Spore detection and sterilization using meta-stable helium
William Hug, Photon Systems, Inc. Non-contact spacecraft surface bioload assay sensor
Christopher McKay, NASA Ames Research Center Raman ultraviolet fluorescence for planetary protection bioburden monitoring
Lisa Monaco, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center/Jacobs Sverdrup Development of a microarray-based instrument for detection of Earth microbes
Andrew Schuerger, University of Florida Biotoxicity of Mars soils: Compatibility of terrestrial microorganisms to simulated conditions of special regions on Mars
J. Anthony Spry, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Molecular methods for characterization of embedded bioburden
Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: NASA's Planetary Protection Research Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25172.
×
ROSES Year Proposals Received Proposals Funded PPO Research Funding* (dollars in thousands) PPO Total Funding* (dollars in thousands) Principal Investigator Title of Proposal
2008 5 2 $1000 $2500 Richard Greenberg, University of Arizona Permeability and transport through Europa’s icy crust
David Summers, NASA Ames Research Center Microbial contamination detection at very low levels by 125I radiolabeling
2009 Unknown 0 $1300 $2500
2010 4 1 $1200 $2700 Shirley Chung, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Cleaning to sterility using CO2 composite spray
2011 19 5 $1200 $2600 Fei Chen, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Laser-induced plasma shockwave cleaning for planetary protection
Patrick Hogue, Johns Hopkins University Advanced microbial census and sterilization research for planetary protection
Andrew Schuerger, University of Florida Metabolism, growth, and genomic responses of Serratia liquefaciens under simulated martian conditions
Parag Vaishampayan, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Metagenomics approach to predict functional capabilities of microbes in clean room facilities
Dale Winebrenner, University of Washington Ultraviolet susceptibilities of microbes in water ice to address forward contamination on Mars and other icy worlds
2012 21 1 $1400 $2600 Eric Suh, California Institute of Technology Assessment of the effects of vapor phase hydrogen peroxide treatments on future spacecraft electronics materials
2013 Not solicited 0 $1600 $2500
2014 19 4 and 3 partially funded $1700 $2400 Daniel Austin Microorganism survivability in high velocity impacts
Fei Chen, Brigham Young University Life at low water activity with salts relevant to Mars and icy satellites
Vincent Chevrier, University of Arkansas Potential growth and survival of sulfate reducing bacteria on the martian surface
Wayne Schubert, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Dry heat inactivation of embedded spores
Adam Abate, University of California, San Francisco PCR-activated cell sorting-based molecular detection of spores and other microbial communities (partial funding)
Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: NASA's Planetary Protection Research Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25172.
×
ROSES Year Proposals Received Proposals Funded PPO Research Funding* (dollars in thousands) PPO Total Funding* (dollars in thousands) Principal Investigator Title of Proposal
Stephanie Smith, University of Idaho Evaluating microbial hardiness and archiving of isolates from NASA’s next generation lander (partial funding)
Kasthuri Venkateswaran, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Germination-induced molecular detection of spores and other heat-tolerant microbial communities (partial funding)
2015 Unknown 0 $1700 $25040
2016 Not solicited 0 Unknown Unknown
2017 Unknown Not yet selected Unknown Unknown

NOTE: All information, except those in columns indicated by *, was compiled from the relevant ROSES databases “NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System” (https://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/index.do). Items in columns with an * were derived from information supplied to the committee by NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer (Catharine Conley, “Day-to-day Operations of the Planetary Protection Office: Past, Present, and Future,” presentation, May 23, 2017, Slide 26, http://sites.nationalacademies.org/cs/groups/ssbsite/documents/webpage/ssb_180763.pdf). PPO, planetary protection officer.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: NASA's Planetary Protection Research Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25172.
×
Page 108
Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: NASA's Planetary Protection Research Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25172.
×
Page 109
Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: NASA's Planetary Protection Research Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25172.
×
Page 110
Suggested Citation:"Appendix D: NASA's Planetary Protection Research Program." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25172.
×
Page 111
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Protecting Earth’s environment and other solar system bodies from harmful contamination has been an important principle throughout the history of space exploration. For decades, the scientific, political, and economic conditions of space exploration converged in ways that contributed to effective development and implementation of planetary protection policies at national and international levels. However, the future of space exploration faces serious challenges to the development and implementation of planetary protection policy. The most disruptive changes are associated with (1) sample return from, and human missions to, Mars; and (2) missions to those bodies in the outer solar system possessing water oceans beneath their icy surfaces.

Review and Assessment of Planetary Protection Policy Development Processes addresses the implications of changes in the complexion of solar system exploration as they apply to the process of developing planetary protection policy. Specifically, this report examines the history of planetary protection policy, assesses the current policy development process, and recommends actions to improve the policy development process in the future.

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