WASHINGTON-The White House issued a national planetary protection strategy on December 30, outlining new assessments to prevent other worlds from being polluted by the planet, and vice versa.
The “National Planetary Protection Strategy” formulated by an inter-agency working group led by the National Space Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) outlines the work to be done in updating planetary protection policies next year, taking into account two scientific advances. And the ability of private individuals in space exploration continues to increase.
The strategy aims to implement part of the latest National Space Policy issued on December 9, which calls on OSTP to cooperate with NASA and other agencies to develop new planetary protection guidelines, “cooperate with scientific, commercial, and international partners to protect appropriately The planetary body and the earth are protected from harmful organisms.”
National Space Council Executive Secretary Scott Pace said in a statement: “Current and future missions to Mars and other destinations require a strategy to support safety, sustainability and predictability. The Earth and space environment.” “By setting the goal of achieving the planetary protection direction of the National Space Policy in 2020, the strategy will continue to maintain the United States’ leadership in scientific discovery, human exploration, and private sector space activities.”
The planetary protection strategy has three broad objectives. One is to create “risk assessments and science-based guidelines” to reduce so-called “forward pollution” or the pollution of other worlds by life on earth. It also guides the evaluation of the role of planetary protection in the payload review process of government private missions.
The second goal is to avoid “external pollution” or any potential contamination of the earth by alien life. The strategy guides agencies to develop various frameworks to assess the risk of sample return missions and other backward contamination sources, as well as the approval framework and procedures for such missions to safely handle materials returned from the earth.
The third goal is to take into account the company’s growth in capabilities and interest in performing missions to other worlds (especially Mars), thereby incorporating private sector views on planetary protection issues. This goal includes work undertaken by the government to develop authorization guidelines and continue to monitor private sector missions to destinations involving planetary protection.
The strategy does not set any new policies, but outlines work on various issues that will be resolved next year. “It is indeed a work plan,” a government official said in a background speech. “This is a strategy for work that is planned to be completed in the next nine months to a year.”
Traditionally, planetary protection has been a major issue for NASA. According to the recommendations of the independent review committee last year, the agency has been working hard to update its planetary protection policy. In July, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that it would issue a new interim directive to reclassify most of the moon into lower categories without planetary protection requirements, and to study how to make planetary protection guidelines consistent with future human protection against Mars. Task compatible.
“We are very satisfied with what NASA has done, but the problem is that NASA’s rules and interim directives do not really apply to the private sector,” the government official said. The strategy follows what officials call the “light touch” approach to any planetary protection regulations for private missions. “We are trying to find ways so that people can move forward, but to move forward safely.”
The strategy also seeks to leverage the expertise of other institutions. The inter-agency working group includes several cabinet-level departments, from the Department of Agriculture, Health and Human Services to commerce and the state. It also includes the Centers for Disease Control, Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Aviation Administration.
Many of them are supported to support backward pollution work. A government official said: “This is a good opportunity to introduce departments and agencies that may not have worked together on this issue in the past, but the government is now happy to do so.”
“Astronauts really have no reason to reinvent the wheel. There is a lot of expertise there,” an official added.
In the final weeks of the Trump administration, the planetary protection strategy was part of the White House’s surge in space policy activities. In addition to the updated national space policy, the White House also issued a space nuclear strategy on December 16, which outlines the priorities for the development of nuclear power and propulsion capabilities and related policy issues.