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Alexa Actionable Analytics for the Web. AmazonGlobal Ship Orders Internationally. Amazon Inspire Digital Educational Resources. Amazon Rapids Fun stories for kids on the go. Approaches to achieving planetary protection should not rely on the multiplication of bioload estimates and probabilities to calculate the likelihood of contaminating Solar System bodies with terrestrial organisms unless scientific data unequivocally define the values, statistical variation, and mutual independence of every factor used in the equation.
Approaches to achieving planetary protection for missions to icy Solar System bodies should employ a series of binary decisions that consider one factor at a time to determine the appropriate level of planetary protection procedures to use. In the case of restricted Category V missions, Earth would be protected through quarantine of sample and astronauts in a yet to be built Biosafety level 4 facility. One way to do that is to enclose the sample container within a larger outer container from Earth, in the vacuum of space.
The integrity of any seals is essential and the system must also be monitored to check for the possibility of micro-meteorite damage during return to Earth. The recommendation of the ESF report is that . No restricted category V returns have been carried out. During the Apollo program, the sample-returns were regulated through the Extra-Terrestrial Exposure Law. This was rescinded in , so new legislation would need to be enacted.
The Apollo era quarantine procedures are of interest as the only attempt to date of a return to Earth of a sample that, at the time, was thought to have a remote possibility of including extraterrestrial life. Samples and astronauts were quarantined in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory. However the Lunar Receiving Laboratory was built quickly with only two years from start to finish, a time period now considered inadequate. Lessons learned from it can help with design of any Mars sample return receiving facility. The ESF study also recommended that it should be designed to contain the smaller gene transfer agents if possible, as these could potentially transfer DNA from martian microorganisms to terrestrial microorganisms if they have a shared evolutionary ancestry.
It also needs to double as a clean room facility to protect the samples from terrestrial contamination that could confuse the sensitive life detection tests that would be used on the samples. Before a sample return, new quarantine laws would be required. Environmental assessment would also be required, and various other domestic and international laws not present during the Apollo era would need to be negotiated.
For all spacecraft missions requiring decontamination, the starting point is clean room assembly in US federal standard class cleanrooms. These are rooms with fewer than particles of size 0. Engineers wear cleanroom suits with only their eyes exposed. Components are sterilized individually before assembly, as far as possible, and they clean surfaces frequently with alcohol wipes during assembly.
Spores of Bacillus subtilis was chosen for not only its ability to readily generate spores, but its well-established use as a model species. It is a useful tracker of UV irradiation effects because of its high resilience to a variety of extreme conditions. As such it is an important indicator species for forward contamination in the context of planetary protection.
For Category IVa missions Mars landers that do not search for Martian life , the aim is to reduce the bioburden to , bacterial spores on any surface from which the spores could get into the Martian environment. Sensitive electronics such as the core box of the rover including the computer, are sealed and vented through high-efficiency filters to keep any microbes inside.
For more sensitive missions such as Category IVc to Mars special regions , a far higher level of sterilization is required. These need to be similar to levels implemented on the Viking landers, which were sterilized for a surface which, at the time, was thought to be potentially hospitable to life similar to special regions on Mars today. In microbiology, it is usually impossible to prove that there are no microorganisms left viable, since many microorganisms are either not yet studied, or not cultivable.
Instead, sterilization is done using a series of tenfold reductions of the numbers of microorganisms present. After a sufficient number of tenfold reductions, the chance that there any microorganisms left will be extremely low. The two Viking Mars landers were sterilized using dry heat sterilization. Modern materials however are often not designed to handle such temperatures, especially since modern spacecraft often use "commercial off the shelf" components.
Problems encountered include nanoscale features only a few atoms thick, plastic packaging, and conductive epoxy attachment methods. Also many instrument sensors cannot be exposed to high temperature, and high temperature can interfere with critical alignments of instruments. As a result, new methods are needed to sterilize a modern spacecraft to the higher categories such as Category IVc for Mars, similar to Viking.
Some other methods are of interest as they can sterilize the spacecraft after arrival on the planet. The spore count is used as an indirect measure of the number of microorganisms present. One new spore method approved is the "Rapid Spore Assay". This is based on commercial rapid assay systems, detects spores directly and not just viable microorganisms and gives results in 5 hours instead of 72 hours. It is also long been recognized that spacecraft cleaning rooms harbour polyextremophiles as the only microbes able to survive in them.
This does not mean that these microbes have contaminated Mars. This is just the first stage of the process of bioburden reduction. To contaminate Mars they also have to survive the low temperature, vacuum, UV and ionizing radiation during the months long journey to Mars, and then have to encounter a habitat on Mars and start reproducing there.
Whether this has happened or not is a matter of probability. The aim of planetary protection is to make this probability as low as possible. The currently accepted target probability of contamination per mission is to reduce it to less than 0. But with current technology scientists cannot reduce probabilities to zero. Two recent molecular methods have been approved  for assessment of microbial contamination on spacecraft surfaces.
This particularly applies to orbital missions, Category III, as they are sterilized to a lower standard than missions to the surface. It is also relevant to landers, as an impact gives more opportunity for forward contamination, and impact could be on an unplanned target, such as a special region on Mars. This requirement can be dropped if the mission is sterilized to Viking sterilization standard. In the Viking era s , the requirement was given as a single figure, that any orbital mission should have a probability of less than 0.
For both landers and orbiters, the technique of trajectory biasing is used during approach to the target. The spacecraft trajectory is designed so that if communications are lost, it will miss the target. Despite these measures [ which? The office of planetary protection stated that it is likely that it burnt up in the atmosphere, but if it survived to the ground, then it could cause forward contamination. Communications were lost three days before its orbital insertion maneuver in It seems most likely it did not succeed in entering into orbit around Mars and simply continued past on a heliocentric orbit.
If it did succeed in following its automatic programming, and attempted the manoeuvre, however, there is a chance it crashed on Mars. Three landers have had hard landings on Mars. These were all sterilized for surface missions but not for special regions Viking pre-sterilization only. Mars Polar Lander , and Deep Space 2 crashed into the polar regions which are now treated as special regions because of the possibility of forming liquid brines.
Alberto G. They gave as their main reason for this, that exchange of meteorites between Earth and Mars means that any life on Earth that could survive on Mars has already got there and vice versa. Robert Zubrin used similar arguments in favour of his view that the back contamination risk has no scientific validity. The meteorite argument was examined by the NRC in the context of back contamination.
It is thought that all the Martian meteorites originate in relatively few impacts every few million years on Mars. The impactors would be kilometers in diameter and the craters they form on Mars tens of kilometers in diameter. Models of impacts on Mars are consistent with these findings.
Earth receives a steady stream of meteorites from Mars, but they come from relatively few original impactors, and transfer was more likely in the early Solar System. Also some life forms viable on both Mars and on Earth might be unable to survive transfer on a meteorite, and there is so far no direct evidence of any transfer of life from Mars to Earth in this way. The NRC concluded that though transfer is possible, the evidence from meteorite exchange does not eliminate the need for back contamination protection methods.
Impacts on Earth able to send microorganisms to Mars are also infrequent. The scientific consensus is that the potential for large-scale effects, either through pathogenesis or ecological disruption, is extremely small. The goal is to reduce the probability of release of a Mars particle to less than one in a million.
Recommendations of the workshop include:. Some ideas proposed include protected special regions, or "Planetary Parks"  to keep regions of the Solar System pristine for future scientific investigation, and also for ethical reasons.
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Astrobiologist Christopher McKay has argued that until we have better understanding of Mars, our explorations should be biologically reversible. In the workshop one of the recommendations for future consideration was to extend the period for contamination prevention to the maximum viable lifetime of dormant microorganisms introduced to the planet. In the case of Europa , a similar idea has been suggested, that it is not enough to keep it free from contamination during our current exploration period.
It might be that Europa is of sufficient scientific interest that the human race has a duty to keep it pristine for future generations to study as well. This was the majority view of the task force examining Europa, though there was a minority view of the same task force that such strong protection measures are not required.
Thus, we need to be concerned that over a time scale on the order of 10 million to million years an approximate age for the surface of Europa , any contaminating material is likely to be carried into the deep ice crust or into the underlying ocean. In part, the report urges NASA to create a broad strategic plan that covers both forward and back contamination.
The report also expresses concern about private industry missions, for which there is no governmental regulatory authority. The proposal by the German physicist Claudius Gros , that the technology of the Breakthrough Starshot project may be utilized to establish a biosphere of unicellular organisms on otherwise only transiently habitable exoplanets,  has sparked a discussion,  to what extent planetary protection should be extended to exoplanets.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. A guiding principle in the design of an interplanetary mission, aiming to prevent biological contamination of both the target celestial body and the Earth. Signed and ratified.
Signed only. Not signed. Further information: Extraterrestrial sample curation. Spaceflight portal. Advances in Space Research. Retrieved Retrieved 3 October United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. Space Policy. More crucially, because of the consistent and widespread international support for its fundamental tenets, and the fact that it was based on an earlier Declaration adopted by consensus in the United Nations General Assembly , the principles enshrined in the Outer Space Treaty have taken on the status of customary international law .
Office of Planetary Protection. Greenberg Unmasking Europa: Francis M. Johnston, John A. Mason, Bennie C. Wooley, Gary W. McCollum, Bernard J. See quote from: McLane who lead the group that designed and built the Lunar Receiving Facility: National Research Council. Space Res. Archived from the original on September 29, Clark Proceedings of Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space