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NASA Unveils New Planetary Protection Directives for Moon, Mars Missions; Jim Bridenstine Quoted

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Jim Bridenstine
Jim Bridenstine Administrator NASA

NASA has created two space directives focused on ensuring planetary protections in support of future long-term space exploration missions, SpaceNews reported Saturday.

Jim Bridenstine, administrator of NASA and 2019 Wash100 Award recipient, unveiled the new directives during a recent webinar and said they are meant to prevent “harmful biological contamination” on the lunar and Martian surfaces.

The first interim directive revises most of the moon’s planetary protection classification to Category 1, which doesn’t include requirements for documentation or cleanliness guidelines.

The moon’s polar regions will be placed under Category 2, which imposes decontamination standards and documentation for biological materials carried to the lunar surface.

Historic sites such as the area where the Apollo landing took place will also be placed under Category 2, according to the report.

NASA’s second interim directive covers requirements such as terrestrial contamination limits on the surface of Mars and calls for research into modifying future guidelines. Under the directive, NASA will launch robotic missions to survey landing sites on the planet for existing organic materials.

The two directives incorporate recommendations from an independent review in 2019 and will not change the Committee on Space Research’s existing planetary protection guidelines, the report states.