Planetary protection: Updates and challenges for a sustainable space exploration

Coustenis, Athena; Hedman, Niklas; Doran, Peter T.; Al Shehhi, Omar; Ammannito, Eleonora; Fujimoto, Masaki; Grasset, Olivier; Groen, Frank; Hayes, Alex; Ilyin, Vyacheslav; Kumar K, Praveen; Morisset, Caroline-Emmanuelle; Mustin, Christian; Olsson-Francis, Karen; Peng, Jing; Prieto Ballesteros, Olga; Raulin, Francois; Rettberg, Petra; Sinibaldi, Silvio; Suzuki, Johey; Xu, Kanyan and Zaitsev, Maxim (2023). Planetary protection: Updates and challenges for a sustainable space exploration. Acta Astronautica, 210 pp. 446–452.



Planetary protection enables scientific return from solar system bodies investigations and at the same time protects life on Earth. As we continue to explore our solar system by landing machines and humans on other planets, we need to ascertain that we do not bring potentially dangerous material home to Earth or carry anything from Earth that may contaminate another planetary body and prevent scientific investigations.

A Planetary Protection Policy has been developed by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), which provides a forum for international consultation in the area of space research. The COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy, and its associated requirements, is not legally binding under international law but is an agreed standard with implementation guidelines for compliance with Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty. States Parties to the Outer Space Treaty are responsible for national space activities under Article VI, including the activities of governmental and non-governmental entities.

The current members of the COSPAR Panel on Planetary Protection are representatives from national space agencies and thematic experts from the science community of different countries ( Other stakeholders, including the private sector, are invited to attend and present at the PPP meetings.

The COSPAR PPP maintains and updates the COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy regularly, always reviewing all available scientific knowledge leading to updates to the policy, in particular as concerns the outer solar system and lunar exploration. Such updates are performed in a careful and balanced way to ensure that the right measures are envisaged to fulfil the rationales for planetary protection.

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