How NASA intends to limit contamination of the Moon and Mars – CAMEROON MAGAZINE – CAMEROON INFO


NASA is targeting the Moon and Mars to organize future manned missions. To manage the risks of contamination of terrestrial origin from these bodies, which could prove to be dangerous, the agency has issued two new directives.

How to limit the risk of contamination of the bodies explored by humanity in the solar system? NASA has made changes to the rules enacted to frame its missions, both robotic and human, on the Moon and Mars. On July 9, 2020, the space agency released two new interim guidelines.

With the Artemis mission, NASA projects humanity’s return to the Moon in 2024. As illustrated by the logo chosen for the mission, the return to our natural satellite is not a conclusion: on the horizon is March. However, sending humans to these targets requires anticipating an inevitable element: astronauts will necessarily take with them a host of microbes (this is also the case for robots, but they can however be prepared to kill the most microbes possible). This is where the guidelines come in.

The first directive is registered under the name NID 8715.128. It concerns the “control of future terrestrial biological contamination associated with all NASA missions or affiliated with NASA intended to land, orbit or otherwise meet the Moon”. The directive applies to NASA’s robotic and human missions to the Moon. Obligations will have to be met in order to “avoid any dangerous contamination” of terrestrial origin, which is part of the Space Treaty. This document, ratified in 1967, lays the legal foundations for exploring space (no State can thus appropriate space).

It will now be necessary to “provide an inventory of biological material (living and dead) included in the material and payloads of spacecraft”. Regarding missions with a crew, the directive requires a list of “the quantity and disposal of biological materials, including waste, to be kept in the lunar environment”.

The second directive is registered under the name NID 8715.129. This time it concerns the exploration of Mars. The idea is to use the knowledge acquired through missions on the International Space Station, the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway project (a future station to be installed in lunar orbit), operations carried out on the surface of the Moon, as well as robotic missions to Mars, to limit contamination that could be a problem. Again, the directive is part of the Space Treaty.

The directive anticipates possible contamination that could affect the Earth-Moon system, due to “the human presence in spacecraft intended to land, orbit, fly and return from Mars”. The text thus provides for “technologies for mitigating the release or intrusion of contamination”, such as closed-loop systems, quarantines, systems for eliminating biological waste that minimize human impact on Mars.

Understanding of the processes that take place in the Martian environment is also required: it is not excluded to conduct experiments “at a location close to landing sites or operations of human mission to characterize all the organic constituents present ”. This recommendation is partly linked to the discovery by the Curiosity rover of organic molecules on the surface of the planet, which must be taken into consideration.

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In progress (3 min): How NASA intends to limit contamination of the Moon and Mars


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