Biological contamination studies of lunar landing sites: implications for future planetary protection and life detection on the Moon and Mars
Chemical and microbiological studies of the impact of terrestrial contamination of the lunar surface during the Apollo missions could provide valuable data to help refine future Mars surface exploration plans and planetary protection requirements for a human mission to Mars. NASA and ESA have outlined new visions for solar system exploration that will include a series of lunar robotic missions to prepare for and support a human return to the Moon, and future human exploration of Mars and other destinations. Under the Committee on Space Research's (COSPAR's) current planetary protection policy for the Moon, no decontamination procedures are required for outbound lunar spacecraft. Nonetheless, future in situ investigations of a variety of locations on the Moon by highly sensitive instruments designed to search for biologically derived organic compounds would help assess the contamination of the Moon by lunar spacecraft and Apollo astronauts. These studies could also provide valuable ‘ground truth’ data for Mars sample return missions and help define planetary protection requirements for future Mars bound spacecraft carrying life detection experiments.(Published Online February 25 2005)
(Received June 8 2004)
(Accepted June 24 2004)
Key Words: Apollo; biological contamination; biomarkers; Luna; Mars; Moon; organic contamination; planetary protection; Ranger; spacecraft sterilization.
c1 Corresponding author.