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Planetary Science and Technology Through Analog Research

Technology under Planetary Protection Research (PPR)

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

Technology under Planetary Protection Research (PPR)

Planetary protection involves preventing biological contamination on both outbound and sample return missions to other planetary bodies. Numerous areas of research in astrobiology/exobiology are improving our understanding of the potential for survival of Earth microbes in extraterrestrial environments, relevant to preventing contamination of other bodies by organisms carried on spacecraft.

PPR supports research to improve NASA's understanding of the potential for both forward and backward contamination, how to minimize it, and to set standards in these areas for spacecraft preparation and operating procedures. Improvements in technologies and methods for evaluating the potential for life in returned samples are supported. The PPR R&A Lead estimates that approximately 40% of the effort funded through PPR is technology related, particularly in the following areas: • The development or adaptation of modern molecular analytical methods to rapidly detect, classify, and/or enumerate the widest possible spectrum of Earth microbes carried by spacecraft (on surfaces and/or in bulk materials, especially at low densities) before, during, and after assembly and launch processing. Of particular interest are methods capable of identifying microbes with high potential for surviving spacecraft flight or planetary environmental conditions (e.g., anaerobes, psychrophiles, radiation-resistant organisms); and • New or improved methods, technologies, and procedures for spacecraft sterilization that are compatible with spacecraft materials and assemblies. PPR's research areas derive directly from recent National Research Council (NRC) recommendations on planetary protection for solar system exploration missions (see for online reports and a list of publications).

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