NASA has convinced SETI Institute to assist all phases of ongoing planetary protection missions and those scheduled for the future to protect the solar system from contamination from earthly substances or to prevent any contamination via astronauts who are returning from space. The contract has been given to the California-based institute by NASA to guarantee proper compliance with all the planetary protection standards.
To help in the validation of biological cleanliness on flight projects and technical reviews and recommendations, the SETI Institute will collaborate with the Office of Planetary Protection(OPP), said NASA, in its press release. In addition to formulating guidelines for implementation of NASA’s requirements, the institute will also make necessary information for the use of the general public and stakeholders and provide training for NASA and its partners.
Lisa Pratt, NASA’s planetary protection officer at NASA Headquarters, said the breadth of knowledge and the depth of mission experience of the SETI team would aid NASA in meeting the technical challenges of assuring forward and backward planetary protection on the anticipated path of human exploration from the Moon to Mars.
The process of protecting Earth from potential life forms that may be returned from other bodies of the solar system and protecting solar system bodies from Earth’s life contamination is termed as planetary protection. Planetary protection ensures that NASA‘s international agreements and strategies are upheld as the ultimate goal in collaboration with Solar System mission planners. Promoting the study of chemical evolution and origins of life in the solar system is the aim of the Planetary Protection Mission.
The OPP will provide responsible solar system exploration by improving and introducing strategies to protect exploring ecosystems, Earth, and research in order to meet the objective set by NASA for planetary protection missions. Assisting in developing flight plans that protect planetary bodies of interest, designing sterile (or low biological) spacecraft, formulating and applying space policy as it relates to Planetary Protection, and developing plans to protect the Earth from returned extraterrestrial objects will be the principal function of the OPP.