Planetary Protection, Solar System Missions and Mars Sample Return: Research, Analysis and Issues Communication

Grant #: NNX08AF18G
Senior Scientist: Margaret Race

This work, titled “Planetary Protection, Solar System Missions and Mars Sample Return: Research, Analysis and Issues Communication,” includes research and activities that systematically analyze and communicate critical information about planetary protection (PP) to various audiences. This work is the logical follow-on to a previous grant (NASA 4CC91: “Analysis and Communication of Planetary Protection Issues for Solar System Missions.” This work continues to emphasize problem solving, decision making, and communication for solar system missions, including the planned Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission.

Four areas of study continue to be important for future mission planning and implementation:

1) Detailed analysis of anticipated issues and concerns associated with mission planning, NEPA Compliance and public decision making;

2) Public perceptions of mission-related risks,

3) Risk communication to varied audiences via scholarly outlets, public environmental analysis documents, and the mass media, and

4) Education and public outreach about planetary protection policies and implementation plans.

The combined work encompasses research and analysis, communication of findings and information, consulting services and Planetary Protection program support. The context of the overall work is related to NASA’s Astrobiology and Solar System Exploration programs, with particular focus on future Mars missions, both robotic and human. Race’s research and activities emphasize the systematic examination and analysis of critical questions related to planetary protection, and communication of information to both expert and lay audiences in appropriate formats and venues. Consulting activities provide support to the planetary protection program in the form of special expert advice and assistance, particularly in areas related to Mars exploration, contamination concerns, and communications planning and implementation.