COSPAR Panel on Planetary Protection (PPP)

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Rummel, J.D. (USA), 2010 - 2014* Email:

Kminek, G. (ESA/ESTEC), 2008 - 2012

Intercommission/Panel Liaison:
Panel on Exploration: Rummel, J. (USA), 2008 - 2012

Terms of Reference

The Panel is concerned with biological interchange in the conduct of solar system exploration, including: (1) possible effects of contamination of planets other than the Earth, and of planetary satellites within the solar system by terrestrial organisms; and (2) contamination of the Earth by materials returned from outer space carrying potential extraterrestrial organisms. The primary objectives of the Panel within COSPAR are to develop, maintain, and promulgate planetary protection knowledge, policy, and plans to prevent the harmful effects of such contamination, and through symposia, workshops, and topical meetings at COSPAR Assemblies to provide an international forum for exchange of information in this area. Through COSPAR the Panel will inform the international community, e.g., the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) of the United Nations, as well as various other bilateral and multilateral organizations, of policy consensus in this area.

Panel Activities

At the second session of its 34th meeting (20 October 2002, Houston, Texas, (USA), the COSPAR Council adopted a revised and consolidated Planetary Protection Policy which will continue to be updated and amended over time. In addition to providing specific guidelines, the policy recommends that COSPAR members provide information to COSPAR within a reasonable time not to exceed six months after launch about the procedures and computations used for planetary protection for each flight and again within one year after the end of a solar-system exploration mission about the areas of the target(s) which may have been subject to contamination. A new website that will provide this information to the public is in development for an early 2011 debut.

Current projects being undertaken by the Panel include the planning for 3 half-day sessions at the 2012 COSPAR Assembly in Mysore, India, an ongoing maintenance of the COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy with technical changes introduced at the 2010 Assembly in Bremen, and the finalization of the results from the COSPAR Workshop on Ethical Considerations for Planetary Protection in Space Exploration (Princeton, 2010).  Upcoming meetings include the Panel’s participation in the Panel on Exploration’s workshop on International Earth-based Research as a Stepping Stone for Global Space Exploration in 2011, a workshop on Development of Foundational Ethical Principles Applicable to Planetary Protection and Space Exploration, to take place in 2011, and a colloquium on Establishing risk levels for a Mars Sample Return mission, to take place in 2012.  The Panel has also proposed to the COSPAR Bureau a project to increase the awareness of the COSPAR Policy among a wide variety of space and other public agencies involved with solar system exploration, as well as among the policy-making world and the public, in general.

Workshop reports and other information provided by the Panel to space agencies and to COSPAR is made available at PPPReports .