AHi s t or y of NA S A’ s P l an e t ar yP r o t e c t i onP r o gr am s
by Michael Meltzer
ach time a space vehicle visits another
world it runs the risk of forever changing
that extraterrestrial environment. We are sur-
rounded on Earth by a mélange o dierentmicroorganisms, and i some o these hitch-hike onboard a space mission, they could
contaminate and start colonies on a different
planet. Such an occurrence would irrevocablyalter the nature of that world, compromise all
uture scientifc exploration o the body, andpossibly damage any extant lie on it. Andby inadvertently carrying exotic organisms
to Earth on our spacecrat, we risk therelease o biohazardous materials into our
Such concerns were recognized by scien-
tists even before the 1957 launch of Sputnik.
This book presents the history o planetaryprotection by tracing the responses to theabove concerns on NASA’s missions to the Moon, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, andmany smaller bodies o our solar system.The book relates the extensive eorts putorth by NASA to plan operations and pre-pare space vehicles that return exemplaryscience
without contaminating the bio- spheres of other worlds or our own
. AsCassie Conley, NASA’s Planetary ProtectionOfcer, has said, “The public can be proud
of the way that NASA has responded to plan-
etary protection concerns, with its efforts to
act responsibly, communicate openly, andaddress eectively the potential or con-tamination.” Humans have a powerul urgeto explore the unknown, but to protect irre-placeable environments, NASA has com-mitted to conducting space exploration in amanner that is protective o the bodies vis-
ited, as well as of our own planet.
About the Author
Michael Meltzer has been writing booksand articles about science and technol-ogy or over 30 years. He has investigatedtopics that include NASA expeditions toJupiter and Saturn, planetary environmen-tal protection, solar house design, indus-trial pollution prevention, and the history o U.S. commercial fshing. He has also pub-lished two science fction stories with envi-ronmental themes. Michael has degrees inphysics, geophysics, and environmental sci-ence and engineering rom the University o Caliornia. He was an engineer at LawrenceLivermore National Laboratory or 15 years,where he helped start a pollution preventionprogram. He lives in Oakland, Caliornia,with his wie and daughter.
Cover illustration by Steve BradleyCover and interior designs by Christopher YatesMedia Fusion, Inc.
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National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Ofce o CommunicationsHistory Program OfceWashington, DCNASA SP-2011-4234