NASA wants to protect Moon and Mars from human contamination

The agency has issued two Interim Directives to update its policies, with the first one focusing on robotic and crewed missions traveling to and from the Earth’s Moon. NASA Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen explained: “We are enabling our important goal of sustainable exploration of the Moon while simultaneously safeguarding future science in the permanently shadowed regions. These sites have immense scientific value in shaping our understanding of the history of our planet, the Moon and the solar system.”

Meanwhile, the second directive focuses on biological contamination for Earth-Moon to Mars missions. The agency says it will use data and experience gained via ground-based tests to conjure guidelines and develop capabilities to monitor biological processes associated with human presence in space exploration. It also aims to develop technologies to mitigate contamination, such as more effective waste disposal tools and techniques. In addition, the agency wants to have a better understanding of Martian environmental processes in order to figure how to properly sterilize terrestrial organisms released by human activity.

NASA is hoping to send the next man and the first woman to the Moon by 2024 and to establish a sustainable human presence there.