NASA Awards SETI Institute Contract for Planetary Protection Support

From NASA

July 10, 2020 RELEASE 20-071

Amy Baker, SETI Project Manager, instructs proper sampling technique
Amy Baker, SETI Project Manager, instructs proper sampling technique during the 2019 course ‘Planetary Protection: Policies and Practices’ at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on May 1, 2019. Credits: NASA/Elaine Seasly

Amy Baker, SETI Project Manager, instructs proper sampling technique during the 2019 course ‘Planetary Protection: Policies and Practices’ at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on May 1, 2019. Credits: NASA/Elaine Seasly

NASA has awarded the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, a contract to support all phases of current and future planetary protection missions to ensure compliance with planetary protection standards.

The SETI Institute will work with NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection (OPP) to provide technical reviews and recommendations, validate biological cleanliness on flight projects, provide training for NASA and its partners, as well as develop guidelines for implementation of NASA requirements, and disseminate information to stakeholders and the public. The role of OPP is to promote responsible exploration of the solar system by protecting both Earth and mission destinations from biological contamination.

“The depth of mission experience and breadth of knowledge on the SETI Institute team will help NASA meet the technical challenges of assuring forward and backward planetary protection on the anticipated path of human exploration from the Moon to Mars,” said Lisa Pratt, NASA’s planetary protection officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Planetary protection preserves environments, as well as the science, ensuring verifiable scientific exploration for extraterrestrial life. Some of the upcoming NASA science missions that will be supported by this contract include the Mars 2020 and Europa Clipper missions, and preparations for NASA’s Mars Sample Return mission. In addition, future human spaceflight exploration under NASA’s Artemis program, such as the Gateway lunar orbital outpost, the Human Lander System, and Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, will be supported under this contract, as part of America’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

The contract is a fixed-price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with a maximum award value of $4.7 million over a five-year period that began July 1.

“As we return to the Moon, look for evidence of past or present life on Mars and continue our missions of exploration and discovery in the solar system, planetary protection becomes an increasingly important component of mission planning and execution,” said Bill Diamond, president and chief executive officer of the SETI Institute. “We are proud to be NASA’s partner for this mission-critical function, protecting Earth from backward contamination, and helping ensure that the life we may find on other worlds, didn’t come from our own.”

NASA and the SETI Institute have worked together on planetary protection for more than a decade and have developed a strong relationship and core competency in this area. SETI Institute scientists have extensive experience in understanding microbial life and how it can affect missions, even in the extreme conditions of spaceflight and extraterrestrial environments. The SETI Institute also has been deeply involved on science teams for many NASA missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope, Curiosity, New Horizons, OSIRIS-REx, Kepler, and others.

Implementing effective and consistent planetary protection standards is more important than ever, as we increasingly venture into space, not only on missions governed by space agencies, but with projects run in conjunction with, and even wholly by, the commercial sector.

For more information about NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection, visit:

https://go.nasa.gov/2ZblwYE

-end-

24 thoughts on “NASA Awards SETI Institute Contract for Planetary Protection Support

  1. Look for life on Mars and Mars Sample Return mission. I saw that movie. It does not end well.

    • It always worked in other star systems on Star Trek, as long as they followed the “prime directive”. Are we headed for a Gene Roddenberry future or a Phillip K Dick future? In any case, we’ve entered the sci-fi future.

      • Ah, sweet Mary has a li’l ‘lectric lamb, Serling zones out @ twilight,
        & only Htchcock’s birds keep us aloft
        as they spot my ‘60 Mata-two-door wagon.

        Me? Safe inside with. the kids. Go Mopar.
        ======

  2. For planetary and interplanetary protection all spacecraft, both alien and our own should be required to wear gigantic spacemasks. These can be fashioned from almost any materials lying about, just as long as there are at least 4 layers (preferably more). Because “science” says they work, so shuddup.
    So it is written, so shall it be done.

    • “Planetary Protection Officer”? Really? Gee whilligers Captain Rogers. Can I borrow your magic decoding ring?

    • OWG, it’s part of the Intergalactic Hygiene Directive in the Multiplanetary Socialist Federation Treaty they’re just hoping and waiting to sign with some alien planet somewhere.

      In other words, SETI will now be funded to keep their full staff and study the data they’ve been collecting for two decades.

  3. I dunno. Seems to me so extraordinarily unlikely that life evolved on even one planet [yet, looking around, it seems to have done so, albeit over zillions of years] that maybe we should send a few spores to other planetary systems? Thus maybe zillions of years from now, after our sun has super-nova-ed, a few amphibians will crawl out of the primordial mud on a planet orbiting some foreign star and thank us.
    However, in the current COVID-mad world, I completely support not bringing new forms of life back to Earth.

  4. Heh, aren’t these the people who are sending organized information to all four(or more) corners of the universe?

    That’s gotta be racist or at least patriarchical.
    How dare they be so presumptuous with their pollution of the cosmos.
    ==========

  5. Seeding the Platonic narrative for ‘Plan Z” – extra-terrestial virus pandemic. I wish I were joking, but I am serious. That scenario woul be TPTB’s narrative of last resort, as blurted out by von Braun on his deathbed and indicated by others too.

    Seriously – predictive programming.

  6. Planetary protection support? I thought the article would be about eliminating theatening asteroids or comets!

  7. From the NASA press release quoted in the post:

    “NASA and the SETI Institute have worked together on planetary protection for more than a decade and have developed a strong relationship and core competency in this area.”

    This is probably just the latest in a string of NASA contracts with SETI for this kind of work. Old contracts reach their ending date, or funding limit, so NASA issues a new one. Then the NASA contract office dutifully issues the perfunctory press release.

    However, it is nice to know that NASA thinks about this kind of thing.

  8. Michael Crichton – The Andromeda Strain

    A team from an air force base is deployed to recover a military satellite which has returned to Earth, but contact is lost abruptly. Aerial surveillance reveals that everyone in Piedmont, Arizona, the town closest to where the satellite landed, is apparently dead. The duty officer of the base tasked with retrieving the satellite suspects that it returned with an extraterrestrial contaminant and recommends activating “Wildfire”, a protocol for a government-sponsored team of scientists intended to contain threats of this nature.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Andromeda_Strain

Comments are closed.