As per a report published today by an independently coordinated consultative body, the NASA regulations governing the potential expansion of earthly microbes from individual planets and the possible return of alien lives to Earth are often outmoded.

As such efforts are known, planetary security remains a worthy objective stresses the report Many of its implemented approaches, however, which are based on rules that were conceived at the beginning of the space age, have influenced costly, at times dubious actions, and do not make sense, tells Alan Stern, a planetary scientist at the Boulder, Colorado Southwest Research Institute, who led the 12-member panel to evaluate NASA’s actions. “We want to move from this 1960s–70s point of view that all of Mars was treated one way.” Planetary surfaces are more nuanced than that, he says…”

NASA has often seen serious concerns about planetary protection to prevent pathogens from heading into space. The Martian robots are built in clean rooms, and many parts are baked in ovens or even smothered in chemicals. It is known that NASA’s Mars Viking landers were baked in purpose-built kilns in the 1970s for such reasons. Nonetheless, some scientists believe that such measures have often been very costly and somewhat unnecessary.

This view is reflected in the new report. For example, NASA must go further than the strict use of spore counts to assess the life content in its spacecraft and to quantify microbes that can be grown in a laboratory as many are not capable. New genomic sequencing technologies are now available to regulate the cleanrooms, and these can be paired with a risk analysis for the chances of harmful contamination from another planet.

The report also says that NASA should reexamine how it classifies the Moon and Mars surfaces. All the Moon is now identified as having the potential to study for life’s origins, which means that NASA does not want to infect it with organisms from the Earth. Nevertheless, few scientists now consider the Moon as an appropriate place to study these concerns— except for its poles where ice could help support life exists. The reclassification of most of the Moon’s surface as not essential for biological research, though it might ease exploration by NASA and other space agencies together with corporate partners. Likewise, much of Mars has been handled as if surviving microbes landing on its surface can be ferried to regions intended to have water and enable life replication. However, many experts believe the outcome ought to be reconsidered

This post was originally published on The Picayune Current