NASA recently updated its requirements for robotic and human missions traveling to the Earth’s Moon, and human missions traveling to Mars to address the possibility of inter-planetary biological contamination.
Of the two NASA Interim Directives (NIDs) released this month, NID 8715.128, addressed the concern that NASA and NASA-affiliated missions may unintentionally cause harm through contamination either to the other places they visit or to Earth.
“We are enabling our important goal of sustainable exploration of the Moon while simultaneously safeguarding future science in the permanently shadowed regions,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “These sites have immense scientific value in shaping our understanding of the history of our planet, the Moon and the solar system.”
The second directive, NID 8715.129, removed the previous policies which prohibited the human exploration of Mars. To allow for human missions, but still avoid possible forward and backward contamination, the space agency said it will use the knowledge gained from its assets such as the ISS, lunar surface operations, and robotic missions to Mars to make sure this does not happen.
“It’s vital that NASA’s regulations remain synchronized with our capabilities and plans,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This NID will enable the human exploration of Mars, creating new opportunities for awe-inspiring science and innovative commercial activities. I believe science and human exploration are complimentary endeavors and I’m excited to see these policy reforms open up a new era of discovery.”