National Aeronautics and Space Administration Planetary Protection Office

About the Office





Mission Categories

Solar System Bodies

List of Missions

Mission Design & Planning

Mission Requirements

Mars Requirements

International Policy

History of Planetary Protection

Course in Planetary Protection

Glossary of Terms



planetary protection history

The history and development of planetary protection has been chronicled in many texts and articles; a few of which are provided below in the reference section.

Brief Timeline of Key Developments in Planetary Protection

1956 Concerns regarding lunar and planetary contamination are raised at the International Astronautical Federation VIIth Congress in Rome.
1958 A report issued by a sub-committee of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) describes the first code-of-conduct for planetary protection and recommended that the newly formed Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) should resume responsibility for matters of planetary protection (October, 1958).
1958 United Nations Committee on the Peaceful uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) is formed (December, 1958).
1961 The first flight project using the new planetary protection recommendations was the Ranger project.
1964 COSPAR establishes 1st set of quantitative planetary protection objectives.
1975 The Viking Lander Capsule 1 & 2 are subjected to terminal sterilization using dry heat microbial reduction (DHMR).
1978 Space Studies Board publishes Recommendations on Quarantine Policy for Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Titan.
1984 COSPAR accepts revised planetary protection policy that includes the mission categories (I-IV) that focus on target bodies and mission types.
1992 Space Studies Board publishes Biological Contamination of Mars: Issues and Recommendations, which concluded that contamination could compromise the integrity of life-detection experimentation.
2003 COSPAR modifies planetary protection policy to include Category IVc to protect “special regions” on Mars, which were defined as “a region within which terrestrial organisms are likely to propagate, or a region which is interpreted to have a high potential for the existence of extant Martian life forms”.

Selected References