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Planetary Protection Classification of Sample Return Missions from the Martian Moons (2019)

Chapter: Appendix B: Revised Request from NASA

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Revised Request from NASA." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Planetary Protection Classification of Sample Return Missions from the Martian Moons. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25357.
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B

Revised Request from NASA

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David Smith

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 5th Street NW
Washington, DC 2001

Dear David:

In May 2017, NASA asked the National Academies to establish an ad hoc committee to review and assess recent research sponsored by NASA and ESA, relating to the planetary protection concern that hypothetic Martian life might exist on the surface of the Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, consequent to their ejection from the surface of Mars following a major impact event.

The Technical Point of Contact for this effort is the Planetary Protection Officer at NASA, which has recently changed from Catherine A. Conley to Lisa M. Pratt, who has reviewed the original statement of task and the timeline to completion. The National Academies’ committee has not completed its work and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has established a second committee to consider whether missions returning samples from Phobos and/or Deimos should be classified as “restricted” or “unrestricted.” Consequently, the National Academies committee is asked to address the following three tasks in addition to the original three tasks. In recognition of the likelihood that developing responses to the additional task will require an additional face-to-face committee meeting, NASA requests the final report be submitted by the end of calendar year 2018.

Addendum to statement of task for Martian Moons Study

  1. In what specific ways is classification of sample return from Deimos a different case than sample return from Phobos?
  2. What relevant information for classification of sample return is available from published studies of Martian meteorites on Earth?
  3. What are the planetary protection consequences of taking a surface sample at depths of 0-2 cm versus taking a sample extending down to depths of 2-10 cm or deeper?
Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Revised Request from NASA." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Planetary Protection Classification of Sample Return Missions from the Martian Moons. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25357.
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Image

Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Revised Request from NASA." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Planetary Protection Classification of Sample Return Missions from the Martian Moons. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25357.
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Page 51
Suggested Citation:"Appendix B: Revised Request from NASA." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Planetary Protection Classification of Sample Return Missions from the Martian Moons. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25357.
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Page 52
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An international consensus policy to prevent the biological cross-contamination of planetary bodies exists and is maintained by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) of the International Council for Science, which is consultative to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Currently, COSPAR’s planetary protection policy does not specify the status of sample-return missions from Phobos or Deimos, the moons of Mars. Although the moons themselves are not considered potential habitats for life or of intrinsic relevance to prebiotic chemical evolution, recent studies indicate that a significant amount of material recently ejected from Mars could be present on the surface of Phobos and, to a lesser extent, Deimos.

This report reviews recent theoretical, experimental, and modeling research on the environments and physical conditions encountered by Mars ejecta during certain processes. It recommends whether missions returning samples from Phobos and/or Deimos should be classified as “restricted” or “unrestricted” Earth return in the framework of the planetary protection policy maintained by COSPAR. This report also considers the specific ways the classification of sample return from Deimos is a different case than sample return from Phobos.

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