After years of wrangling, NASA plans to update its guidelines on how much biological pollution it allows to allow other planets to be carried out while exploring the solar system,media reported. The new rules will ease some of the agency’s requirements on how to explore the moon and Mars, two of the two destinations NASA hopes to send astronauts to in the next few years.
For decades, NASA has had strict rules on how much biological pollution can be carried out when sending probes or humans to other planets. This is a concept known as planetary protection, and it has a legal basis in a treaty signed more than 50 years ago. The Outer Space Treaty, known as the Outer Space Treaty, provides for countries to explore other worlds to avoid harmful pollution and to bring back from the rest of the world any foreign microbes that could cause any harm to the planet.
Now, NASA is particularly focused on sending humans into deep space again. No matter what kind of clean-up humans do, they carry a lot of bacteria when they go into space. Like such a high priority as human exploration, NASA now wants to rethink some of the more stringent requirements for the moon and Mars, which will be difficult to accomplish without adjusting human exploration of the two worlds. Today, NASA issued two new “temporary directives” that list potential guidelines for exploring the moon and Mars. For years, the space industry has been pressing for the rules to be updated.
The first directive revolves around the reclassification of the lunar part, which would reduce restrictions on the launch of spacecraft and personnel to the moon. Under current planetary protection rules, the moon is considered a class II object, meaning that the pollution carried by spacecraft is likely to endanger future missions. The new interim directive will reclassify much of the moon as a class of objects that do not require planetary protection because they do not have the hope of finding life. But NASA still sees parts of the moon — especially those thought to have water ice craters — as a second-class object. “We need to make sure that when we go to the moon we are protecting those very important scientific sites, where there is … From a biological point of view, it causes harmful pollution to the moon,” said JIM Bridenstine, NASA’s director. Such places include the moon’s south pole, which is believed to contain considerable water ice in craters that remain in the shadows.
The second directive will update the Mars rules so that human missions will be allowed in the future. Now, Mars is a fairly limited planet. For the lander, this is a four-stage object, which means there is a lot of interest in finding life there, and there is a significant risk of contamination there. At the same time, parts of the planet where liquid water may be present are more restricted, requiring stricter guidelines. The interim directive will require the agency to come up with new guidelines based on what it continues to learn about Mars during upcoming missions, such as the Perseverance rover. “The challenge for Mars is that we don’t have enough information to know where we can go, where we shouldn’t go and where we can go, but we need to be more careful than anywhere else,” Mr Bridenstine said. He added: “We will continue to improve, adjust and then open up as much as possible to as many people.” “
According to Bridenstine, these new temporary directives are flexible — “these are not policy directives; they are not static.” “