Planetary Protection


NASA HQ Vacancy: Planetary Protection Officer

NASA HQ Vacancy: Planetary Protection Officer

NASA has posted a position in the Science Mission Directorate for the Planetary Protection Officer. It has a very short response time, with applications due by June 25, 2014.


Could Life Hitch a Ride to Saturn and Jupiter?

Could Life Hitch a Ride to Saturn and Jupiter?

A new study supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute suggests that the possibility of life being transferred from the inner solar system to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, although very rare, cannot be ruled out.


Planetary Protection: Preventing Microbial Hitchhiking

Planetary Protection: Preventing Microbial Hitchhiking

While astronauts might dream of discovering unknown life one day in their future career, ESA's Planetary Protection Officer oversees activities that achieve it on a regular basis.


Rare New Microbe Found in Two Distant Clean Rooms

Rare New Microbe Found in Two Distant Clean Rooms

A rare, recently discovered microbe that survives on very little to eat has been found in two places on Earth: spacecraft clean rooms in Florida and South America.


Could Life Have Survived a Fall to Earth?

Could Life Have Survived a Fall to Earth?

It sounds like science fiction, but the theory of panspermia, in which life can naturally transfer between planets, is considered a serious hypothesis by planetary scientists. The suggestion that life did not originate on Earth but came from elsewhere in the universe (for instance, Mars), is one possible variant of panspermia. a.


Sterilized Mars Spacecraft Largely a Waste of Money

Sterilized Mars Spacecraft Largely a Waste of Money

Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, astrobiologists Alberto Fairen of Cornell University and Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Washington State University say the NASA Office of Planetary Protection's "detailed and expensive" efforts to keep Earth microorganisms off Mars are making missions to search for life on the red planet "unviable."


Planetary Protection: A Work in Progress

Planetary Protection: A Work in Progress

For the past few years, a research team in Antarctica has been drilling through several miles of ice in an effort to reach Lake Vostok. Lake Vostok is the largest of a number of bodies of fresh water trapped deep in the ice and isolated from the rest of Earth's biosphere for millions of years. What forms of life may exist in Lake Vostok are of interest not only to terrestrial ecologists but also astrobiologists given that moons such as Europa, Ganymede, and Enceladus may have water oceans underneath their outer icy surfaces.


ROSES-12 Amendment 1: Due Dates Changed for Appendix C.18, The Planetary Protection Research Program.

Planetary protection involves preventing biological contamination on both outbound and sample return missions to other planetary bodies. Numerous areas of research in astrobiology/exobiology are improving our understanding of the potential for survival of Earth microbes in extraterrestrial environments, relevant to preventing contamination of other bodies by organisms carried on spacecraft. Research is required to improve NASA's understanding of the potential for both forward and backward contamination, how to minimize it, and to set standards in these areas for spacecraft preparation and operating procedures. Improvements in technologies and methods for evaluating the potential for life in returned samples are also of interest.

For Appendix C.18, The Planetary Protection Research Program, Notices of Intent are now due on June 29, 2012, and Proposals are now due September 5, 2012. This change is being made so that the due dates occur on work days.

On March 9, 2012, this Amendment to the NASA Research Announcement "Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) 2012" (NNH12ZDA001N) was posted on the NASA research opportunity homepage at http://nspires.nasaprs.com/ and appears on the RSS feed at: http://nasascience.nasa.gov/researchers/sara/grant-solicitations/roses-2012

Table 2 and Table 3 of the Summary of Solicitation for this NRA will be updated to reflect these changes.

Questions concerning Appendix C.18, The Planetary Protection Research Program, may be addressed to Cassie Conley, Planetary Science Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546-0001. Email: cassie.conley@nasa.gov; Telephone: 202-358-3912.


Due Dates Changed for the Planetary Protection Research Program

Planetary protection involves preventing biological contamination on both outbound and sample return missions to other planetary bodies. Numerous areas of research in astrobiology/exobiology are improving our understanding of the potential for survival of Earth microbes in extraterrestrial environments, relevant to preventing contamination of other bodies by organisms carried on spacecraft. Research is required to improve NASA's understanding of the potential for both forward and backward contamination, how to minimize it, and to set standards in these areas for spacecraft preparation and operating procedures. Improvements in technologies and methods for evaluating the potential for life in returned samples are also of interest.

Notices of Intent are now due on June 29, 2012.

Proposals are now due September 5, 2012.

This change is being made so that the due dates occur on work days. Go to: http://nspires.nasaprs.com/

Questions concerning the Planetary Protection Research Program, may be addressed to

Cassie Conley cassie.conley@nasa.gov 202-358-3912


Comparative Survival Analysis of D. radiodurans and the Haloarchaea N. magadii and H. volcanii Exposed to Vacuum Ultraviolet Irradiation

Comparative Survival Analysis of Deinococcus Radiodurans and the Haloarchaea Natrialba Magadii and Haloferax Volcanii, Exposed to Vacuum Ultraviolet Irradiation

Ximena C. Abrevaya, Ivan G. Paulino-Lima, Douglas Galante, Fabio Rodrigues, Pablo J.D. Mauas, Eduardo Corton, Claudia de Alencar Santos Lage
(Submitted on 29 Sep 2011)

The haloarchaea Natrialba magadii and Haloferax volcanii, as well as the radiation-resistant bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans, were exposed to vacuum-UV (V-UV) radiation at the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS). Cell monolayers (containing 105 - 106 cells per sample) were prepared over polycarbonate filters and irradiated under high vacuum (10-5 Pa) with polychromatic synchrotron radiation. N. magadii was remarkably resistant to high vacuum with a survival fraction of ((3.77 ± 0.76) x 10-2), larger than the one of D. radiodurans ((1.13 ± 0.23) x 10-2). The survival fraction of the haloarchaea H. volcanii, of ((3.60 ± 1.80) x 10-4), was much smaller. Radiation resistance profiles were similar between the haloarchaea and D. radiodurans for fluencies up to 150 J m-2. For fluencies larger than 150 J -2 there was a significant decrease in the survival of haloarchaea, and in particular H. volcanii did not survive. Survival for D. radiodurans was 1% after exposure to the higher V-UV fluency (1350 J m-2) while N. magadii had a survival lower than 0.1%. Such survival fractions are discussed regarding the possibility of interplanetary transfer of viable micro-organisms and the possible existence of microbial life in extraterrestrial salty environments such as the planet Mars and the Jupiter's moon Europa. This is the first work reporting survival of haloarchaea under simulated interplanetary conditions.

Full paper

Comments: Draft version (without figures), Accepted for publication in Astrobiology
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Citeas: arXiv:1109.6590v1 [astro-ph.EP]
Submission history
From: Ximena Celeste Abrevaya [view email]
[v1] Thu, 29 Sep 2011 17:02:52 GMT (131kb)


Courses and Conferences: Planetary Protection: Policies and Practices

Oct. 7-9, 2008
Location: Center of Marine Biotechnology, 701 East Pratt Street Baltimore, Maryland 21202

NASA has developed this course on planetary protection policies and practices to familiarize current and future practitioners with NASA and COSPAR planetary protection programs. The course provides a comprehensive review of all applicable policies, practices and procedures necessary to implement a successful planetary protection program, emphasizing integration of managerial, administrative, and laboratory aspects of planetary protection.


NASA Planetary Protection Research Program Opportunity

The Planetary Protection Research program solicits proposals in three areas: improvements in sterilization technologies for spacecraft and components, methods for detecting the very low levels of biological contamination present on or in spacecraft or components, and characterizations of the capacity for Earth organisms to survive in other planetary conditions using laboratory simulations. The due date for proposals is September 5, 2007.


Mars Special Regions Meeting at COSPAR

Jennifer Heldmann has been invited to participate in a special COSPAR Colloquium on Mars Special Regions. This meeting is an essential step in developing an international consensus on the definition of "special" regions on Mars, which will in-turn determine the application of planetary protection requirements for future Mars lander missions. This 3-day meeting will take place in Rome, Italy on 18-20 September 2007. For more on COSPAR Colloquia visit: http://cosparhq.cnes.fr/Meetings/Colloq.htm


Astrobiologists Discuss Mars Habitability on NPR

On February 16th, NAI scientists were featured in a live broadcast of NPR's Science Friday. Tune in to the podcast to hear how astrobiologists are following the water and the energy, trying to target those parts of the planet most likely to harbor life. Plus, learn how the rovers Spirit and Opportunity have changed our ideas about the Martian environment, and what evidence future missions will look for. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7453410 [source: NAI Newsletter]


Planetary Protection: Policies and Practices, a short course

November 14-16, 2006
Space Life Sciences Laboratory, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Supported by: NASA Planetary Protection Office and NASA Astrobiology Institute
Registration Deadline: October 7, 2006


Planetary Protection Update

Microbial Diversity and Its Relationship to Planetary Protection, Applied and Environmental Microbiology

"As summarized by Rummel (56) and Rummel and Meyer (57), while exploring our solar system and the universe at large, spacefaring nations must be committed to avoiding biological contamination of other planetary systems while also protecting the Earth from potential harm caused by materials returned from space. Most scientists accept this, and there are international treaties and regulations addressing these issues (6, 62). Thus, planetary protection is now a part of planning for all extraterrestrial missions (64), and the rules regarding these activities are prepared by an international group known as the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) (Paris, France). Spacefaring nations generally adhere to the scientific and technical standards developed by COSPAR."


NRC Report: Safe on Mars

Safe on Mars, Astrobiology Magazine

"The National Research Council was tasked with evaluating the risks of landing humans safely to work on Mars. Their report highlights a number of unique aspects in transit to the red planet, as well as once humans step out onto the surface."



Top stories from August.