The White House has released its strategy for "Planetary Protection". It outlines new assessments to help prevent terrestrial contamination of other worlds and vice versa.
The White House's strategy outlines work that needs to be done over the next year, or so, to update planetary protection policies. It takes into consideration both scientific advances as well as growing private capabilities in space exploration.
The main rationale behind the policy is that it will "advance the Nation’s role in the sustainable exploration of space by appropriately protecting other planetary bodies and the Earth from potentially harmful biological contamination from space exploration activities. The Strategy builds on efforts by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other stakeholders in the Federal Government to develop a more cohesive national effort that balances scientific discovery, human exploration, and commercial activity in space."
The White House's plan implements various portions of the National Space Policy, released on 9 December, that calls on NASA, and other agencies, to develop new planetary protection guidelines “working with scientific, commercial, and international partners, for the appropriate protection of planetary bodies and Earth from harmful biological contamination.”
“Current and future missions to Mars and other destinations necessitate a strategy to support a safe, sustainable, and predictable Earth and space environment,” explained Scott Pace, executive secretary of the National Space Council, said in a statement.
“By establishing objectives for the implementation of the 2020 National Space Policy’s direction on planetary protection, this strategy continues American leadership in scientific discovery, human exploration, and private-sector space activities,” he added.
It's a worthy plan, but will only really become good news if the US can persuade the other big space players - namely Russia and China - to follow suit.
Vast Heavenly Fortune: NASA to check out an asteroid that might be a failed planet and may potentially be worth more than our global economy. We don’t think about it often, but there’s something very large and very important hanging out between Mars and Jupiter. It’s not a secret planet that scientists have been keeping from us, it’s a massive asteroid belt. Within this asteroid belt is a giant rock known as 16 Psyche, and it’s a monster. More...