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Planetary protection technologies: technical challenges for Mars exploration

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1 Author(s)
Buxbaum, K.L. ; Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Technol., Pasadena, CA, USA

The search for life in the solar system, using either in situ analysis or sample return, brings with it special technical challenges in the area of planetary protection. Planetary protection (PP) requires planetary explorers to preserve biological and organic conditions for future exploration and to protect the Earth from potential extraterrestrial contamination that could occur as a result of sample return to the Earth-Moon system. In view of the exploration plans before us, the NASA solar system exploration program roadmap published in May 2003 identified planetary protection as one of 13 technology areas for "high priority technology investments." Recent discoveries at Mars and Jupiter, coupled with new policies, have made this planning for planetary protection technology particularly challenging and relevant. New missions to Mars have been formulated, which present significantly greater forward contamination potential. In response, new guidelines have been adopted by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), including the introduction by COSPAR of a Category IVc for planetary protection. Some missions may not be feasible without the introduction of new planetary protection technologies. Other missions may be technically possible but planetary protection requirements may be so costly to implement with current technology that they are not affordable. A strategic investment strategy is needed to focus on technology investments designed to enable future missions and reduce their costs. This presentation will describe some of the potential technology pathways that may be most productive.

Published in:

Aerospace Conference, 2005 IEEE

Date of Conference:

5-12 March 2005