spacecraft do not require deep cleaning

A step for Planetary Protection:

According to a committee assessment planetary protection measures, Mars-bound landers, and rovers may not need to undertake as strict cleaning processes as they did previously before leaving Earth.

Planetary protection is the science of trying to prevent Earth viruses from spreading to other worlds and vice versa. Since the 1980s, spacecraft destined towards areas where scientists believe life as we know it might thrive have been subjected to stringent cleaning procedures before blasting off in the hopes of averting such an invasion. However, scientists explain on Tuesday that when it comes to robots destined for the surface of Mars, NASA may be able to relax its regulations.

In a statement, Amanda Hendrix, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute and co-chair of the group that prepared the report, stated, “Changes to planetary protection rules should be examined in the perspective of how much science has learned in recent years about Mars.”

The new paper offers a deliberately limited approach to Mars planetary protection. The 15 scientists who created it are unconcerned about the arrival of Earth organisms. Instead, the researchers concentrated solely on the prospect that Earth organisms could establish themselves in such a way as to obstruct the search for life on Mars and the study of any such life there.

Despite the severe Martian environment, the scientists believe there are some areas on the Red Planet where life from Earth could thrive, such as a wet underground cave protected from the ultraviolet radiation that would kill Earthly life on Mars’ surface. Wayfaring bacteria could find a home on Mars’ deep surface, which is more than 3 feet (1 meter) below the surface.

With this in mind, planetary protection guidelines need to continue preventing such a scenario from unfolding, the report concludes. The experts noted that spacecraft traveling within caves or drilling far below the surface still need to be ultraclean. Despite the severe Martian environment, the scientists believe there are some areas on the Red Planet where life from Earth could thrive, such as a wet underground cave protected from the ultraviolet radiation that would kill Earthly life on Mars’ surface. Wayfaring bacteria could find a home on Mars’ deep surface, which is more than 3 feet (1 meter) below the surface.

With this in mind, planetary protection guidelines need to continue preventing such a scenario from unfolding, the report concludes. The experts noted that spacecraft traveling within caves or drilling far below the surface still need to be ultraclean.

In a statement released by the National Academies, Joseph Alexander, a space policy consultant and co-chair of the committee, said, “Planetary protection measures should be aimed at reducing risks while preserving, to the greatest extent reasonable, the prospect of important scientific goals being realized.” For some years, NASA has been debating how to handle planetary defense. In 2019, the agency organized an independent review board to account for planetary protection, but that assessment looked at the entire field, not the narrow lens used in the latest report.

“The scenario for planetary protection is speedily changing,” says Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. He added that they wanted to be ready in this new surrounding with profound and practical policies. This allows better scientific discoveries and protects the integrity of the Earth and the places visiting.

The fresh report throws light on the challenges of performing within existing planetary safety needs that depend on maximum allowed spore counts. These counts are declared by calculating the number of spores on a particular part of the spacecraft. The remaining spacecraft portion is believed similar. The committee scientists noted that modern techniques could reflect the risk in a better way and that the activities on arrival can aid to keep the spacecraft clean.

These needs add more complexity to the planetary safety guidelines. The report also highlights two major areas where these guidelines are non-existent, like commercial missions to Mars and human missions to Mars that are free from NASA involvement.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *