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NAS Meeting: Planetary Protection Requirements for Sample-Return Missions from Martian Moons


Date: 6-9 November 2017

Location: London, UK,

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will establish an ad hoc committee to review and assess recent research sponsored by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) relating to the planetary protection concern that hypothetical martian life might exist on the surfaces of the martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, consequent to their ejection from the surface of Mars following a major impact event. In particular, the committee will address the following tasks:
1. Review, in the context of current understanding of conditions relevant to inactivation of carbon-based life, recent theoretical, experimental, and modelling research on the environments and physical conditions encountered by Mars ejecta during the following processes:

a) excavation from the martian surface via crater-forming events;
b) while in transit through cismartian space;
c) during deposition on Phobos or Deimos; and
d) after deposition on Phobos or Deimos;

2. Recommend whether missions returning samples from Phobos and/or Deimos should be classified as "restricted" or "unrestricted" Earth return in the framework of the planetary protection policy maintained by the ICSU Committee on Space Research (COSPAR); and

3. Suggest any other refinements in planetary protection requirements that that might be required to accommodate spacecraft missions to and sample returned from Phobos and/or Deimos.

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