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NASA updates protection policies for Moon-to-Mars missions

Moon to Mars reflection; Credits: NASA

NASA has released two NASA Interim Directives (NIDs) updating the agency’s requirements for robotic and human missions traveling to the Earth’s Moon, and human missions traveling to Mars. The first, NID 8715.128, addresses the control of forward terrestrial biological contamination associated with all NASA and NASA-affiliated missions intended to land, orbit, or otherwise encounter the Moon.

The directive’s compliance will be ensured by the agency’s Office of Planetary Protection within the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, which supports NASA’s responsible exploration of the solar system to enable science, exploration/ discovery, and commercial activities. “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, supports a historic human mission to Mars. This NID reforms previous policies that would have constructively prohibited the human exploration of Mars. The NID established a path forward wherein knowledge gained from the International Space Station, Gateway, lunar surface operations, as well as robotic missions to Mars will be leveraged to prevent harmful forward and backward biological contamination.

“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.”

For information about NASA’s Artemis program, visit www.nasa.gov/artemis

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