Skip to main content
81 votes
Accepted

Is it true that NASA is hiring a new 'planetary protection officer'?

You're observing shamefully bad journalism. The "protect Earth from aliens" bullet point in the "Highlights" section of the article was put there by an editor who either ignorantly ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
27 votes

Is there any demonstrated or even proposed technology that can sterilize a spacecraft with 100% certainty and yet leave it electronically functional?

Absolute 100% sterilization is impossible. There's always a tiny chance that some microbe lands on a component during manufacturing, gets entombed inside the packaging, and therefore is unreachable ...
DrSheldon's user avatar
  • 48k
23 votes

Why is Curiosity not heading for Peace Vallis?

It is actually too likely to find water there. There are 3 categories of Planetary Protection missions for a mission to Mars, IVa, IVb, and IVc. Curiosity meets the IVa criteria, a mission not ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
20 votes

Why do we worry about contaminating some solar bodies but not others?

The deciding factor is if the solar body has a chance of harboring life (or having done so in the past). Scientists don't want to run the risk of false positives: detecting life on another planet, ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
18 votes

Why not bring life to Venus along with the next exploring mission?

Question: Why not bring cyanobacteria and fertilizer to the atmosphere of Venus to improve conditions for life there by producing oxygen ? ... Only a few scientists have speculated that ...
Rob's user avatar
  • 3,276
17 votes

Is there any demonstrated or even proposed technology that can sterilize a spacecraft with 100% certainty and yet leave it electronically functional?

No, it is not possible to make it 100% sterile. Especially if you consider self-replication as only requirement to classify something as life (It's complicated. See obligatory xkcd reference) Few ...
Matija Nalis's user avatar
16 votes
Accepted

Are people actually serious about mining the Moon?

the Moon is actually pretty damn small The Moon is actually pretty damn enormous. The mass of the Moon is about $7.34 \times 10^{22}$ kilograms. As a point of comparison, all the copper ever mined on ...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
15 votes
Accepted

What sterilizations or other preparations or approval were necessary to send the Tesla Roadster into an orbit that may impact life-capable planets?

Nothing. The trajectory is such that it won't intersect any planet for a very long time. The sterilization requirements only apply if it is expected to hit an object within a short period of time. The ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
13 votes

Is it true that NASA is hiring a new 'planetary protection officer'?

The planetary protection officer has 2 major functions: Protect other planets from contamination by our space probes Protect the Earth from contamination by alien matter The press have for some ...
GdD's user avatar
  • 20.3k
11 votes

Who decided that a <1 in 10,000 probability of contaminating the europan ocean by a viable Earth microorganism was legally and ethically sufficient?

I'll start with what COSPAR wrote in 1964, emphasis mine: COSPAR "accepts, as tentatively recommended interim objectives, a sterilization level such that the probability of a single viable ...
David Hammen's user avatar
  • 74.9k
11 votes
Accepted

Why would bringing samples from Mars back to Earth be a "civilization-level changing capability"?

It's not. I worked on two incarnations of MSR, and conceived a third, two of which got a good way into development, but none made it to a launch pad. I can say that MSR would be a tremendous ...
Mark Adler's user avatar
  • 58.2k
11 votes
Accepted

Why was Dawn placed into an orbit that would only be stable for "decades"

Why was Dawn placed into an orbit that would only be stable for “decades” In order to simultaneously obey the rules and maximize science. Maximizing science means staying at Ceres and collecting data ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
10 votes
Accepted

Why do we worry about contaminating some solar bodies but not others?

Early Mars probes were heavily sterilized. Further studies have shown that Mars's surface isn't habitable, at least not in most areas, and thus a low risk approach has been developed, where certain ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
9 votes
Accepted

What will happen to Parker Solar Probe in the long term?

Surface contamination is not an issue for Mercury or Venus. It is only considered a Category I (Mercury) or II (Venus) risk, which essentially means don't worry about it too much. Also, its orbit will ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
9 votes

Why are we concerned about Cassini contaminating Saturn's moons when we landed Huygens probe on one of them?

First off, what's done is done. Don't make it worse. Second the main concern is Enceladus, not Titan. Enceladus is an ocean world whose ocean regularly and significantly interacts with its surface. ...
Mark Adler's user avatar
  • 58.2k
7 votes

Are people actually serious about mining the Moon?

Motivation The moon is rich in a few important natural resources, namely:1 2 Stuff Context Amount Utility Challenges water data from orbiters indicate that the poles – particularly the South Pole – ...
FluffyFlareon's user avatar
6 votes

Are people actually serious about mining the Moon?

Yes, people are serious about mining the moon. Here's a US government contract. (Currently inactive as it was issued and due in 2020.) But it constitutes a serious solicitation, and request for ...
Wyck's user avatar
  • 1,583
5 votes

What precautions are planned to prevent samples returned from Mars crashing and releasing organisms into Earth's environment?

Humanity hasn't yet reached a consensus. Return samples obtained from a Category V body must be curated at facilities rated Biosafety level-4 (BSL-4). Because the existing BSL-4 facilities ... do not ...
Camille Goudeseune's user avatar
4 votes

What plan does SpaceX have for planetary protection?

NASA has a protocol for this, and SpaceX will follow it. As 1337Joe notes, the Outer Space Treaty applies: Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty: "the activities of non-governmental entities in ...
geoffc's user avatar
  • 79.6k
4 votes

How does "planetary protection" apply to Europa since Europa is not a planet?

"Planetary protection" is a minor misnomer. From NASA: Planetary protection is the term given to the practice of protecting solar system bodies (i.e., planets, moons, comets, and asteroids) "...
Russell Borogove's user avatar
4 votes

Are people actually serious about mining the Moon?

It really comes down to the plans of future space explorers and what resources would be available on the Moon and how beneficial they could be. Currently there are a lot of maybes. The Moon has water ...
Fred's user avatar
  • 13.1k
4 votes

What do non-NASA authorities do in regards to Planetary Protection?

I'm quite sure the UAE mission fell under NASA rules, for a number of reasons. It was developed in the US, and I believe uses NASA's DSN for communication purposes. From what I can tell, it is a ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
4 votes
Accepted

Does exploration of Venus' atmosphere now require any planetary protection protocols?

Accorcing to NASA's Office of Planetary Protection (NOPP), "Some scientists have speculated that microbial life might be able to survive in the atmosphere of Venus. The Space Studies Board (SSB) ...
Tom Spilker's user avatar
  • 18.3k
4 votes

Are people actually serious about mining the Moon?

It might be more correct to say there are people who are serious about liking the idea of mining the moon. There are no serious space agency programs or commercial enterprises attempting to do so. It ...
Ken Fabian's user avatar
  • 1,042
3 votes

Are people actually serious about mining the Moon?

Removing its mass I think the problem here is understanding the meaning of "mining" in this context. Even on Earth, mining doesn't remove ALL the mass, only the valuable part. Large part (...
Agent_L's user avatar
  • 414
3 votes

Why are we concerned about Cassini contaminating Saturn's moons when we landed Huygens probe on one of them?

NASA's Planetary Protection office is a good place to start. An excerpt that you might find useful: "The most stringent requirements are those for Mars, Jupiter’s moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, ...
PHChilly's user avatar
  • 326
3 votes

Are any space agencies working on an (essentially) 100% reliable sterilization technique for spacecraft bound for subsurface ocean worlds?

“100% reliable” may be unattainable, but “Dang close” is already routine in hospitals. Dry heat sterilization is possible, but requires long exposure times which can damage many materials. Etylene ...
Woody's user avatar
  • 22.1k
2 votes

Why not bring life to Venus along with the next exploring mission?

To date, while there are discussions and plans being formed with respect to terraforming, there has not been any serious plans to do so. And that isn't likely until we are able to start really ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
2 votes
Accepted

Is Curiosity allowed to investigate the subsurface of the "clay unit " near Mount Sharp?

After the fact, we now know that Curiosity is allowed to investigate the clay unit. The first clay sample was taken in April 2019 Later samples have verified findings about water in the Gale crater, ...
SE - stop firing the good guys's user avatar
2 votes

How does "planetary protection" apply to Europa since Europa is not a planet?

The term "planetary protection" predates our current understanding of our solar system. Since 1958, we've made discoveries that led scientists to consider the possibility of life existing on moons ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible