Talk:Planetary protection

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More Objective[edit]


Revised final sentence so that it was more objective and did not make a subjective statement. Lucid-dream 05:13, 23 February 2006 (UTC)


  • C. Mileikowsky, F. A. Cucinotta, J. W. Wilson, B. Gladman, G. Horneck, L. Lindegren, J. Melosh, Hans Rickman, M. Valtonen, J. Q. Zheng (2000). "Risks threatening viable transfer of microbes between bodies in our solar system". Planetary and Space Science 48 (11): 1107–1115. doi:10.1016/S0032-0633(00)00085-4. 
  • Rummel J. D., Billings L. (2004). "Issues in planetary protection: policy, protocol and implementation". Space Policy 20 (1): 49–54. doi:10.1016/j.spacepol.2003.11.005. 

--Stone 09:10, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

  • Benton C. Clark (2004). "Temperature–time issues in bioburden control for planetary protection". Advances in Space Research 34 (11): 2314–2319. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2003.06.037. 
  • A. Debus (2004). "Estimation and assessment of Mars contamination". Advances in Space Research 35 (9): 1648–1653. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2005.04.084. 
  • J. Nellen, P. Rettberg, G. Horneck and W.R. Streit (2006). "Planetary protection – Approaching uncultivable microorganisms". Advances in Space Research 38 (6): 1266–1270. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2005.10.026. 
  • L. I. Tennen (2006). "Evolution of the planetary protection policy: conflict of science and jurisprudence". Advances in Space Research 34 (11): 2354–2362. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2004.01.018. 
  • L. Perek (2006). "Planetary protection: lessons learned". Advances in Space Research 34 (11): 2354–2362. doi:10.1016/j.asr.2003.02.066. 
  • J. D. Rummel, P. D. Stabekis, D. L. Devincenzi, J. B. Barengoltz (2002). "COSPAR's planetary protection policy: A consolidated draft". Advances in Space Research 30 (6): 1567–1571. doi:10.1016/S0273-1177(02)00479-9. 
  • D. L. DeVincenzi, P. Stabekis and J. Barengoltz (1996). "Refinement of planetary protection policy for Mars missions". Advances in Space Research 18 (1-2): 311–316. doi:10.1016/0273-1177(95)00821-U. 
  • J. Barengoltz and P. D. Stabekis (1983). "U.S. planetary protection program: Implementation highlights". Advances in Space Research 3 (8): 5–12. doi:10.1016/0273-1177(83)90166-7. 
  • L. P. Daspit, J. A. Stern, E. M. Cortright (1975). "Viking heat sterilization—Progress and problems". Acta Astronautica 2 (7-8): 649–666. doi:10.1016/0094-5765(75)90007-7. 
  • [1] --Stone 09:10, 24 January 2007 (UTC)
so... what are these doing here? Potatoswatter 01:38, 11 March 2007 (UTC)
I am asking the same question. So, I decided to copy and paste these to the article page. These appear to be valuable references regarding this topic, so why not make them available to the general reader who comes across this article. Steve Quinn (formerly Ti-30X) (talk) 02:48, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

moved statement[edit]

This was added by an anon, I'm moving it here mainly because the grammar makes me wonder about veracity:

For Category I only a request to COSPAR has to be made. There are no restrictions on the bioburden, as long a acidental landing in a place beeing Category II to V is impossible.

Potatoswatter 01:37, 11 March 2007 (UTC)

New section on Mars category IV[edit]

I used material from my blog post here Legality of Manned Missions to Surface of Mars. As you see I released it under a suitable license. However didn't feel it was appropriate to put the Text release template on the article page itself as it draws undue attention to the source, which is simply a paraphrasing of the COSPAR document in ordinary language. Robert Walker (talk) 17:57, 19 May 2013 (UTC)

RFC on Merger of Planetary protection and Interplanetary contamination[edit]

There are merger proposals concerning Planetary protection, Interplanetary contamination, and Back-contamination. The purpose of this RFC is to request additional comments and to provide time for the merger discussions to be done without premature closure. Robert McClenon (talk) 01:27, 12 July 2013 (UTC)

Just for clarity for those whose may be coming in from outside for this RFC, the main body of discussion on this is happening at Talk:Interplanetary_contamination. DanHobley (talk) 19:49, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Just a thought: why don't you place the RFC tag in the "main body of discussion"...? --JustBerry (talk) 02:03, 18 July 2013 (UTC)
I didn't place the tag! Here would also be fine, but much of the background is there. DanHobley (talk) 03:30, 18 July 2013 (UTC)

Merger from Interplanetary protection[edit]

Per rough consensus at the Talk:Interplanetary contamination talk page, I went ahead and completed the merger. Warren Platts (talk) 14:29, 13 July 2013 (UTC)

In case anyone didn't notice, there is an RFC on whether to merge these articles. The purpose of the RFC is to draw a larger group of editors to view the articles. The completion of the merger while an RFC on the merger was in progress without waiting for third-party closure was improper. It has been done, but it was in violation of Wikipedia policy. Robert McClenon (talk) 16:29, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Sorry Mr. McClenon. I didn't realize there was anything else left to talk about. My opinion is that we've spent enough hours on this and that there's no need to spend more. But by all means, feel free to revert it if you think there's something more to discuss. A backup of the merged article will be preserved here. Warren Platts (talk) 16:39, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Project biology. RW said above that Back contamination used to be in WP:Biology. I put this article in that project too. DanHobley (talk) 17:39, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
No harm in leaving the merge open a few more days. That said, I do support this merger. Content is thoroughly duplicated; I think everything in intercontamination is also present here. This does make sense to me. DanHobley (talk) 17:49, 13 July 2013 (UTC)

(1) I don't see why we need a proliferation of subsections, e.g., the categories IVa, IVb, IVc. can be conveniently folded under category IV; (2) I believe the section title COSPAR recommendations is more informative than the generic Categories; (3) the sentence in the old lede that says that BC is more important than FC is like saying Stan Musial is the greatest baseball player ever--an unsourced opinion IOW: it doesn't belong in the article IMHO. Warren Platts (talk) 18:02, 13 July 2013 (UTC)

As for organization of sections, that's a matter that needs discussion, could be right but needs to be discussed here first.
You omitted: "If a hard landing risks biological contamination of the special region then the whole lander system must be sterilized to these levels."
You also removed the definition of a special region completely.
All this should be discussed here first.
Totally oppose merge with Interplanetary contamination. Only makes sense if you are a follower of Zubrin and his like and believe that contamination issues are of no interest at all and believe that all the literature on the subject is of no significance.
And whatever your views on that, you oppose me on that debate and it is not proper for you to be the one who does the merge and closes the RfC.
With the other sentence, I object on procedure. I don't know what the basis is for that sentence, but whoever it was might have some source in mind. Unless it is really clear, you add cn first and wait for a while before removing it. Robert Walker (talk) 18:24, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Just FYI, I think you caught the article midway through me making changes. The Special Region info was absent as I was moving it back into its own section! I think the flow having the Mars subsections within section IV does make sense, but I cleaned it up so the context was clearer. Hope this specific issue meets with your approval. DanHobley (talk) 18:38, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Re removal of the sentence from the lede, I think it was somewhat POV, and support the removal. DanHobley (talk) 18:40, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Guys I apologize for not backing up the original article. I didn't realize what a pain in the arse it would be to revert to the old revision. @ Robert Walker: I suggest we need a little less talmudic Wikilawyering and a little more constructive editing. Everybody but you supported the merger. Please either get with the program or else quit trying to be a stumbling block. @ Dan Hobley: I like the way you restructured the COSPAR section! Cheers, Warren Platts (talk) 18:53, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Dan, still removes the "If a hard landing risks biological contamination of the special region then the whole lander system must be sterilized to these levels." which is important. Robert Walker (talk) 19:04, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
It's still there! Right there! Under the Special Regions section. I had to change it to " category IVc," as it wasn't adjacent to "these levels" any more, but the meaning is identical. Also, I note there's some conflict within this text between "Any component" in the description of the level and "whole lander system" under the Special Regions. I didn't know which was correct, so I just propagated the old text. DanHobley (talk) 19:33, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
As for "Resilience of life in space" I don't see what that has to do with the price of cheese as it were.
I think it's OK. I'm thinking about this topic as three stage - possible pickup on planet 1, transfer to planet 2, survivability of planet 2. The fact that life can survive the middle bit is very important, otherwise no-one would care about interplanetary contamination for unmanned missions, as it would all get "space sterilised". DanHobley (talk) 19:33, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
And the last sentence of the entire article "However, it is should be noted that as long as spacecraft missions are sent to other extraterrestrial bodies, it is not possible to keep them perfectly clean" is an equally bizarre conclusion to the article.
The previous version ended "Measures currently in use for scientific exploration include dry-heating of satellites, sterilizing wipes and aseptic integration of components. These add a significant burden to mission designers and integration teams. However, there is consensus that this is required to prohibit the possible microbial contamination of other planets."
I think one can detect a slight change of POV there? (UK understatement :) ).
I feel this info is still present, though wording has changed. Dry heating is discussed fairly well, "aseptic integration" doesn't actually tell you anything (how is it aseptic?? - we already talk about "clean room assembly", which is more detailed and clearer), and the part about sterilizing wipes seems a) in conflict with the statement that NASA only uses heat sterilization now, and b) is covered by the ref to chemical sterilisation. The part about burdens is superceded by "The certification process to support this goal is lengthy and requires substantial fundamental research and method standardization." I can't support the final sentence as this process cannot "prohibit" contamination, it just minimizes risk. This is why someone has added the stuff about not possible to be perfectly clean. The tenor of this sentence though doesn't really need spelling out, as the fact so many procedures are in place as detailed implicitly confirms that this is widely regarded as a good idea. i.e., changes look OK to me. DanHobley (talk) 19:33, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
No way will I contribute here. So, now, this is all that is left in wikipedia of the topic of forward and backward contamination issues! Apart from your section in the MSR article, maybe other tiny bits here and there. I don't want to be associated with it, but I protest to the last, that it is simply not right to do all this! Robert Walker (talk) 19:04, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
Huh? Measures currently in use for scientific exploration include dry-heating of satellites, sterilizing wipes and aseptic integration of components. These add a significant burden to mission designers and integration teams. However, there is consensus that this is required to prohibit the possible microbial contamination of other planets does not occur either in the old Planetary protection article, nor in the Interplanetary contamination article. Also, how do decontamination procedures "prohibit" anything. That doesn't even make sense. However, the first two sentences are useful inventions: have added them to Decontamination procedures section. Thanks. Warren Platts (talk) 19:22, 13 July 2013 (UTC)

July 5, 2012?!? lol! Like I said. The previous version did not include those sentences. Warren Platts (talk) 20:21, 13 July 2013 (UTC)
My mistake, you are right. I think the current ending is inappropriate but will post as a new section as I think it will help to think about the focus of this article, what it should cover.

Request for arbitration[edit]

Apparently, the two Roberts are not satisfied with the present article and want a so-called Request for Arbitration. Cf. here and here. Apparently, this petty and transparent attempt to get revenge is because of the "last straw" for Mr. McClenon, which "was the closure of a requested merger ... when my Request for Comments to obtain outside opinions was still in progress." Looks like they are gathering ammunition in order to ban myself and User:BatteryIncluded. For the record, I haven't closed anything. There was a discussion at Talk:Interplanetary contamination#Merger proposal III that had existed several days prior to Mr. McClenon's RFC. There, it was clear that the consensus was to go ahead an merge the two articles. Therefore, I spent the hours required to merge the two articles, resulting in a vast improvement over both of the previous articles, if I may say so myself. This type of WP:WIKILAWYERING--placing so-called "procedures" above the greater good of the encyclopedia--is going to be the downfall of this entire project. Who do you guys think you're really fooling? Unbelievable... Warren Platts (talk) 13:29, 14 July 2013 (UTC)

The personal attacks are what are jeopardizing the good of the encyclopedia. The ArbCom does have the authority to ban users. As you will see if you view the case, I have not requested that anyone be banned. I have requested WP:Discretionary sanctions, and I have requested an interaction ban. Robert McClenon (talk) 01:07, 15 July 2013 (UTC)

Suggestion for focus of this article[edit]

The section on COSPAR is clearly presented, however the rest lacks focus and doesn't have much relevance to the COSPAR section.

I have always found this a useful short, and concise article, also of high importance. I feel that there is a risk of it becoming verbose and hard to read and use. That is the motivation for this suggestion to keep it focused.

Remove: "Resilience of life in space[edit]

The first section, "Resilience of life in space" doesn't belong in this article IMHO. The second section starts "The Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) translates these considerations... " which obviously relates to the introduction, and the "Resilience of life in space" is not connected with the introduction either and is also not especially related by topic to the rest of the material in this article either.

I suggest it is simply removed, and merged with Interplanetary Contamination or wherever else seems appropriate for the material.

Add short explanation of legal basis in OST[edit]

Instead, it would be useful to explain the background in a new introductory section - or a para. within the existing section.

It just needs to explain briefly how the guidelines were drawn up to clarify the meaning of a single phrase in the OST, which is their legal basis, and how that phrase came to be interpreted as referring to science value. The reader might not know that.

BTW the Moon Treaty mentioned in the historical section has not been ratified by any space faring nation. If it is mentioned, this fact should also be mentioned.

Keep focus on COSPAR material[edit]

I suggest that the main reason for talking about sterilization in this article is to help clarify what is meant by the COSPAR guidelines, and their motivation.

I would suggest that the other sections need to be focused similarly, so that the reader sees clearly that they relate directly to the guidelines, and are used to clarify the guidelines.

In its present form the whole article could be appropriately retitled: "COSPAR guidelines on planetary protection". I don't recommend that though, as in future though more material might be needed. For instance a MSR would require quarantine regulations and those would be appropriate here as well.

Cleanliness verification such as spore count section[edit]

A section on spore count, and other proposed methods for verifying cleanliness of the spacecraft would be appropriate.

Particularly, I think it is important to explain that the spore count is used as an indirect measure of the number of micro-organisms present. Typically 99% of micro-organisms by species will be non spore forming and able to survive in dormant states, and so the actual number of viable dormant micro-organisms remaining on the sterilized spacecraft is expceted to be many times the number of spore forming micro-organisms.

Material from these pages would be a good starting point for a section on this, which could be titled "Spore Counts and other methods to verify sterilization" or some such:

Some studies that suggest that the spore count method has limitations as an assay method, since often surfaces with the lowest or even zero spore count have similar numbers of micro-organisms to surfaces with higher spore counts.

This can be a good starting point: [Comparison of Innovative Molecular Approaches and Standard Spore Assays for Assessment of Surface Cleanliness]

Decontamination procedures[edit]

This should explain clearly that the aim of the current regulations is to keep the number of micro-organisms low enough so that the probability of contamination of Mars (and other targets) is acceptable. It is not an objective to make the probability of contamination zero.

The guidelines were originally drawn up on the basis that the aim is to keep the probability of contamination during the entire period of the historical exploration of Mars to 1 chance in 10000, a somewhat arbitrarily chosen number.

Also it's not right to suggest that no future technology will ever permit totally clean spacecraft. Who knows what future technology may permit in this field? I haven't come across anyone who says it will never be possible.

Issues and concerns[edit]

This could be best in a separate section rather than mixed up with the other stuff.

It could be about missions that crashed on Mars only sterilized to category III and other issues, to do with whether the planetary protection methods are succeeding and how effective they are.

But I think confusing to contain that material in other sections of the article. I would put all those concerns in one place. Also, for focus, to make it particularly a section about the guidelines, how effective they are and so on.

General contamination issues and anything not directly related to the guidelnes[edit]

General contamination issues I think are best put elsewhere, as they would overwhelm this article if you went into any detail of the extensive literature on forward and backward contamination.

Sample returns[edit]

I also think that details of sample return missions belongs elsewhere, at most a very short summary here, as again that would overwhelm the article, there is so much on it.

Just enough information to help clarify the meaning of restricted Category V. Could also be useful to have a short discussion of the reasons for including Europa, Encladus, the moons of Mars etc in restricted Category V, again very much focuses on the direct connection with the guidelines as otherwise it would overwhelm this article.

Motivation for this suggestion[edit]

That way it would remain a short easy to read article for anyone who wants to know what are the current planetary protection guidelines are, how they work, what their legal basis is, how they are implemented, how effective they are, and any issues with them. I think that is quite enough for one article.

I think anything not directly related in an easy to see way to the COSPAR guidelines and actual techniques of protection should be elsewhere. Robert Walker (talk) 21:58, 15 July 2013 (UTC)

Am in process of rewriting to follow this layout. Deleted material in my user space here - some may belong in the article again after re-organization though other parts I don't think belong here at all. User:Robertinventor/deleted material from Planetary Protection
Robert -
DO NOT RESTRUCTURE THIS ARTICLE. PLEASE. I am strongly opposed to 1. the removal of the Resilience of Life in Space section, and 2. the inclusion of further legal material. Several other editors have also advised you not to expand the legal material - though I have now lost track of exactly where this is. Please please don't.
Feel free to add material (incl. sections), but please try to keep it neat and concise. If you add sections, I would strongly advise you to not delete or move around what's already there. I probably won't be back on wiki much until next week, so please don't take my silence to mean anything, positive or negative. I haven't reviewed your proposal above in enough detail to comment other than my two main requests above.
Friendly advice - edit in short bursts, and try not to add lots and lots of material in one go. Doing so will encourage other editors to revert everything because they disagree with a fraction of it. Small edits avoid this problem. If you get reverted - which I anticipate you might - hammer it out here.
Good luck. I will return some time early next week, and probably won't be involved until then. Remember - keep it NPOV and concise. Don't write essays! DanHobley (talk) 03:31, 19 July 2013 (UTC)
Dan, okay, what is the point in the Resilience of life in space? I didn't understand how it related to the material before and after it or what it had to do with Planetary Protection. AFAIK what I am doing here is totally POV neutral, thought it was a good starting point, since simply describing the policy - how can that be regarded by anyone as POV slanted.
The other material I removed didn't fit its section and IMO the whole article was a shambles, you read through and suddenly it jumped topic for no apparent reason, then jumped topic again several times. Some might return to the article if I can find a place for it. Most I think belong in Interplanetary Contamination. I'm trying to organize it around the Planetary Protection title and all related to the COSPAR guidelines.
Robert McClenon suggested I try some editing and I started here to "test the water". If this editing is already problematical I'm not sure I can do much editing at all. But do try to explain why it is problematical in your view. And - what's the problem with legal material? I haven't been given a topic ban on legal material?
If I get reverted I'll probably just give up and report to Robert McClenon that I can't work on this at present. It was just a test to see if I could, following his suggestion that maybe with WP gone I might be able to work on the topic.
No problem if you all disagree or revert, I'll just give up then. I can't see your vision for these articles at all, unless you can explain it in a way I can understand. Literally can't see at all how any of my editing or suggestions for this article is even slightly POV weighted or slanted. Can work on it with my colleague of opposite POV if that is useful.
If the idea still is to merge all contamination issues on Wikipedia into this one article, I totally have to give up as that makes no sense to me. I hope if you can let me edit this article and get it into shape, you will all see why I feel more than one article is necessary. 03:48, 19 July 2013 (UTC)

Resilience of life in Space - what is it for?[edit]

Dan I see you didn't revert, just added this section back in. What is it for?

It is expected that the harsh environments encountered throughout the rest of the Solar System do not seem to support complex terrestrial life; however, recent experiments demonstrate that various organisms can easily survive the vacuum conditions of outer space and thus possibly contaminate a sterile planet or planetoid.

It presents two controversial statements -

  • It is expected that the harsh environments encountered throughout the rest of the Solar System do not seem to support complex terrestrial life
This is not stated by any published paper that I've seen. It is thought for instance that there is a possibility, fairly remote, of complex multicellular life in the oceans of Europa resembling those of hydrothermal vents. There is a fairly recent discovery of multicellular life on Earth that makes no use of oxygen at any stage in its life process which raises a remote possibility of multicellular life on Mars. "It is expected" is vague and could be taken as "probable" if so would be agreed by most but could be taken as "scientific certainty" if so no-one says that.
  • various organisms can easily survive the vacuum conditions of outer space and thus possibly contaminate a sterile planet or planetoid
Suggests indirectly that other planets are sterile, otherwise why add the word "sterile" as non sterile planets can also be contaminated.

It at least prejudices the reader towards the idea that all planets are sterile and can't support life at all, but without sources or reasoned argument, just by slanted phrases that could imply these ideas in the reader's mind.

I've just removed those words.

Also removed the lunar surveyor example, which since it is controversial doesn't make any sense to introduce a controversial example.

Why add a controversial example, when there is plenty of non controversial material?

Have added in its place "Many experiments such as the Expose E experiments on the ISS support these conclusions."

This is a placer, it could be expanded into a much longer paragraph, or indeed, a whole article on the topic of resilience of dormant life in space. That is now well established and I think notable enough for a separate article, maybe someone has already done one indeed..

It is notable enough. But I see no connection with the next section or the article as a whole.

Since you are insistent on including it I have moved it to the end after Spore Counts. And added an off-topic please discuss type tag to oit.

Please explain why it is needed here and what it is connected to. If you don't have a reason for adding it I suggest it is placed elsewhere, perhaps as a new article on "Resilience of life in space".

As no-one has given any reason for including this section, and I can't see why it is here myself, and it duplicates material elsewhere in wikipedia, even an almost identical section on one of the other pages - I have simply deleted it. If anyone reading this has any objection and think it should be restored, please explain its purpose and how it relates to the main topic of this article. Thanks! Robert Walker (talk) 21:09, 6 January 2014 (UTC)

Section on Outer Space Treaty[edit]

I'm going to add this material back in. But will do it this time as short sentence intro to the Cospar section and expansive treatment in the History section. It was perhaps too much information for a new reader to the page so soon in the article.

If this is still an issue, please explain.

I have removed this phrase " and in the Vienna Declaration of 1999." as the page doesn't explain what the connection is to the Moon Treaty or the OST. Perhaps there is one, if so please explain and I'll add it back in.

This is directly relevant to the page and not POV slanted in any way, simply shows the legal basis of the guidelines. Robert Walker (talk) 09:32, 19 July 2013 (UTC)

Will add in issues[edit]

This re-organization will take a day or two. I'm going to add in an Issues section as mentioned above. This will briefly present the view that these measures are not effective, or that contamination doesn't matter, and so the regulations could be relaxed.

This is a minority view and I think extensive treatment is best done elsewhere e.g. as a section of the Interplanetary contamination article, but could be briefly mentioned here.

I feel strongly that as a minority view this POV should be restrained to a single section in this article and not added as qualifying phrases to every section on the page.

Will be adding other sections too. Then when that is all done, so long as it is not reverted, will ask for comments from my colleague who has opposite POV to me and do further revision if necessary. It can take a day or two to hear from him as a professional person who is sometimes very busy. Robert Walker (talk) 09:41, 19 July 2013 (UTC)

Issues section[edit]

I've added it but feel my opponents would probably complain that it is biased because it presents the counter argument as well as the original argument of Zubrin.

I feel though that it is biased to include Zubrin's argument and not include the counter argument.

Is it possible to write on this topic in a way that won't have at least some readers detecting what they consider to be a POV bias one way or the other?

I've added a POV-section template to it so it can remain in the article for now, and encourage discussion here. and will do that for any other material that I feel has potential for POV bias either way.

Encourage any of you who see POV slanted sections to do similarly. It gets frustrating if the discussion is on the bias of the whole article and no individual section is tagged or discussed. Please, if at all possible, discuss any biases you spot section by section.

If this can't be settled it might be best to leave out this section and leave it for later discussion elsewhere. It doesn't have to be included here in my view.

There are other concerns and issues that can be added. But this is currently the most newsworthy of them. Robert Walker (talk) 13:48, 19 July 2013 (UTC)

If my edits here are not immediately reverted, will ask for comments from others outside wiki too on whether there is any bias, including the friend with POV sympathies close to Zubrin. Robert Walker (talk) 14:12, 19 July 2013 (UTC)

Containment and quarantine section[edit]

I added this as it has to be included, Back contamination is managed by containment obviously rather than sterilization as the science value of the samples is diminished if they are sterilized.

I made this as POV neutral as possible by not stating any time periods or size requirements which caused so much debate and controversy on the Mars sample return mission section. I don't think this needs a POV-section template as a result, but if anyone thinks it does, do add and we can discuss. I don't understand why it is a problem to mention the size requirements given in the ESF study, or the estimates of the time required to design and build the Mars sample receiving facility, but it is probably better if someone else adds them rather than me right now.

I also haven't mentioned the risk of environmental disruption at all here. IMHO it should be mentioned, perhaps similar language to the Mars sample return mission section, but prefer not to get involved in that debate right now, of whether and how to mention it, as it is not of central importance to this article. I want to write something as totally non controversial as I can possibly manage here. Again if someone else wants to add that in, then I think it would be a good idea to do so, just a brief mention, similar to the Mars sample return mission article, as it is not central to this article. Robert Walker (talk) 20:23, 20 July 2013 (UTC)

Proposal for extension of protection to non biological considerations[edit]

I've added this, as an important development in COSPAR ideas since 2010. Robert Walker (talk) 21:40, 31 July 2013 (UTC)


I added a short bit about the Mars sample return controversy. If controversies are included here, then I felt that this should be included as well as the meteorites controversy. Used the MSR sample return summary as a basis for it, extracting only the parts of most relevance to restricted Category V return, slightly rewritten for clarity, hope it's okay.

Marked the whole section as {{pov-section}}. It could be removed completely. Though I think perhaps there should be brief mention here that the Planetary protection policies do have areas of controversy as well as areas of constructive forward development, not sure if it is right to suggest the whole thing is controversy free which is what you would get if you left out this section altogether.

But it is only a minor part of the article here. Robert Walker (talk) 21:40, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

Reversible exploration[edit]

Some mention should be made of Chris McKay's idea of biologically reversible exploration probably, as it has been a subject of COSPAR discussion and also some controversy.

This remains within the remit of things only directly related to COSPAR deliberations and current or concretely proposed protection policies. However I'm not sure of the status of biologically reversible exploration in current COSPAR ideas so need to research that some more. Robert Walker (talk) 21:40, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

I added a section on this, also discussing Europa, enough so the reader knows it is an issue under discussion for COSPAR. Robert Walker (talk) 19:50, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

Resilience of life in Space[edit]

Still not sure what the place of this is in the article. But perhaps the best thing to do is to work on Interplanetary contamination first (if I am permitted to do that), some of the material may end up there, then can see better how it integrates with this article. Robert Walker (talk) 21:43, 31 July 2013 (UTC)

Removed the {{underconstruction}}[edit]

Added the section on biologically reversible contamination considerations. Done everything I planned to do at this point. So have removed the template.

There probably are flaws in the article still but have done the best I can for now, plan to visit it again a week or two from now to see it afresh, and interested in any comments. Robert Walker (talk) 19:48, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

For future, should have a section on planetary protection considerations for human missions[edit]

One other thing that is an obvious subject for this article is the question, what should the planetary protection policies be for human exploration of Mars (or other destinations in our solar system likewise)?

This has been discussed by COSPAR many times so there is a lot of material on the subject, and there are recommendations that could be quoted.

However, it is a subject in flux, as our understanding of surface conditions on Mars develops, as is also recognized in the COSPAR discussions.

It might be quite a controversial subject to cover here, due to difficulties of seeing so far ahead, with no clear plan by anyone from current situation to human explorations as regards law, or COSPAR guidelines or anything.

It is clear that the current COSPAR guidelines can't apply to human missions, as the sterilization methods used for robotic spacecraft can't be applied to human occupied spacecraft, there is no way you can reduce the hundreds or thousands of trillions of micro-organisms in a human occupied spaceship to the 300,000 requirement for a robotic spacecraft for even the Category IVa missions, while keeping the human occupants alive.

As a result, with current technology anyway, some contamination of Mars may be almost inevitable after a human surface mission. It is hard to see how you could contain those micro-organisms also within a human occupied spacecraft to the level of cleanliness of a robotic mission, especially in the event of a hard landing but also for accident free missions too. Many of those who write on it think so anyway, though there is some disagreement about that too.

I might do this section later on but it will need care to do it well, as I found out earlier this year, because of the amount and extent of controversy between those of differing views on this subject, making it hard to give a unified presentation. There is much controversy anyway on planetary protection issues, but when it comes to human colonization the range of views is far greater, and feelings of the various advocates run strong and probably can't be reconciled into a single approach on current levels of knowledge at least.

If instead you attempt a presentation of all the different views on the subject, this becomes ovewhelming due to the number of different views there are. Also it is hard to do this sort of presentation in a way that seems unbiased to all readers of the article. Robert Walker (talk) 19:48, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

resilience of life section again[edit]

With the resilience of life section, then I still don't know what it is doing here really, but will leave it until later. Maybe when the Interplanetary Contamination article is in better shape it might be clearer what belongs where. Robert Walker (talk) 19:48, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

Removed from lead section sentence saying that planetary protection may be compromised already - this is a POV and not appropriate for intro summary of the article[edit]

This is the para, which I just removed from the head of the article:

Copied from the "Planetary protection" lead (version-August 15, 2014 21:32):

However, this may have already been compromised to some extent since microbes, like Tersicoccus phoenicis, that may be resistant to methods usually used in spacecraft assembly clean rooms, may have unintentionally contaminated spacecraft, according to studies.[1][2]

  1. ^ Madhusoodanan, Jyoti (19 May 2014). "Microbial stowaways to Mars identified". Nature (journal). doi:10.1038/nature.2014.15249. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Webster, Guy (6 November 2013). "Rare New Microbe Found in Two Distant Clean Rooms". NASA. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 

This is indeed a valid issue. But - you need to explain about how planetary protection works before its significance can be understood. And saying that it means that planetary protection "may be compromised" - well it doesn't actually mean that, not really. The article itself doesn't say that.

The thing is, all Planetary protection is based on probabilities. And it has been known for a long time that there are many microbes resistant to the spacecraft cleaning methods.

The objective of the measures is to reduce numbers of microbes - not remove them completely, because that is impossible.

So, if you check the rest of the article, the Sagan Coleman equation takes account of the trip to Mars, and then the hostile situation on the surface, including the UV light, and lack of oxygen which many Earth microbes need - and with the Viking discoveries, the lack of water over at least much of the surface of Mars - at any rate in the equatorial regions - all this combines to give the total probability that there are microbes that remain viable.

Nobody knows what the probability is because we don't have any good way to calculate it yet. So they dropped the requirement to calculate probabilities when the conditions there turned out to be so harsh.

So, it is known that Curiosity has many dormant microbes on it almost certainly, but many as in maybe quite a few thousand microbes - not trillions. And in the very dry conditions of the equatorial regions, to best of our knowledge this makes the chance of contamination low enough to be acceptable - at least according to the normal planetary protection standard of 1 in 10,000.

This is what they actually found:

"Swabs of Curiosity’s surfaces before it was launched, including its heat shield and flight system, revealed 65 species of bacteria. Most were related to the genus Bacillus. In the lab, scientists exposed the microbes to desiccation, UV exposure, cold and pH extremes. Nearly 11% of the 377 strains survived more than one of these severe conditions. Thirty-one per cent of the resistant bacteria did not form tough, protective spore coats; the researchers suspect that they used other biochemical means of protection, such as metabolic changes."

So - highlighting that some of these remaining microbes are polyextremophiles.

But that's long been recognized, that there are microbes on our rovers on Mars. And that many are poly-extremophiles - because conditions in clean rooms favour polyextremophiles like this. It's the latest of many articles that report findings like this, for many years now. It's a new study, new data - but not like it is a huge surprise really.

Might well be an idea to add this, but if we do so, perhaps it belongs in "Bio-burden detection and assessment" section.

Perhaps as a new section "Issues with Bio-burden detection and assessment" similar to the existing "issues with Impact prevention".

It could report the polyextremophile findings in spacecraft clean rooms generally (not just this one). And report work that is done on how you can protect planets even with these issues. And how well our present protection methods are. And how they have been improved.

And then ask if it has been successful.

Also mention the problem we have that there is no ground truth yet from Mars. We have not yet sent any mission to Mars to inspect previous spacecraft there to find out in practice how well our methods have worked. So have no scientific first hand data, just theories and models.

That would all be a valid topic for a new section.

It's been hard to know what to include and what to leave out. Could easily have a whole multi-chapter book. Best if it is tightly focused on the topic of Planetary Protection and existing measures and issues with them. Other things have to go elsewhere at some point.

But a short para. on this issue - tightly focused, that could well be appropriate.

I suggest, a stub on it if you like, with that title "Issues with Bio-burden detection and assessment"

Or if not, I'll do a stub at some point myself. And can expand to perhaps a short paragraph, loads written about this for sure.

Hope you agree here, if not do say what you think in reply! Robert Walker (talk) 01:19, 16 August 2014 (UTC)

New section Issues with Bio-burden detection and assessment[edit]

I created this as a new section - moved it from the lede. Please discuss before editing the article, if you still think it is appropriate to have this in the lede section.

Why I think it is not appropriate for the lede.[edit]

  • The linked to article does not say that planetary protection may have been compromised.
  • I don't see how it could be appropriate to start an article with a statement like that unless it is a widely held view in the field.
  • "May have been compromised" is vague in this context anyway - what does that mean given that planetary protection is based on probabilities anyway? Even in the 1970s you could say, validly that it "may have been compromised", even the Viking sterilization, the most thorough sterilization ever done for planetary protection, did not totally guarantee protection.

It has been acknowledged right from the beginning that there is a probability of contaminating Mars - the aim is to reduce that as low as possible.

Perhaps it might be reasonable to say that the probability of contaminating Mars is larger than expected. But I don't know of anyone who says that either in a printed article or notable source. This article doesn't say that, comes quite a bit short of saying that.

The problem is that we don't have any way or accurately assessing the probabilities at present.

So, we work on the general assumption that the conditions on Mars are sufficiently hazardous to be roughly equivalent to the heat treatment stage of the Viking sterilization procedures.

But - that is impossible to verify - it might be better than the heat treatment for Viking, or not so good, depending on many factors which are currently unknown. So given that the level of probability is currently unknown, is not really possible to say if any particular lapse or partial lapse raises it to above the 0.01% per mission threshold.

If anyone does say this somewhere in a notable primary source, would be good to include it. But of course, later on, after the reader has been introduced to the probability calculations so they understand the context.

This is a real issue though[edit]

It is a real issue sure. Needs to be mentioned somewhere.

Earlier articles in the scientific literature on this include

Microbial characterization of the Mars Odyssey spacecraft and its encapsulation facility - 2003 "Several spore-forming isolates were resistant to gamma-radiation, UV, H2O2 and desiccation, and one Acinetobacter radioresistens isolate and several Aureobasidium, isolated directly from the spacecraft, survived various conditions."

Recurrent isolation of extremotolerant bacteria from the clean room where Phoenix spacecraft components were assembled, 2010 "Extremotolerant bacteria that could potentially survive conditions experienced en route to Mars or on the planet's surface were isolated with a series of cultivation-based assays that promoted the growth of a variety of organisms, including spore formers, mesophilic heterotrophs, anaerobes, thermophiles, psychrophiles, alkaliphiles, and bacteria resistant to UVC radiation and hydrogen peroxide exposure"

There are many more papers on the subject and much research being done into the issue and how to solve it.

So they already knew about this issue of cleaning room polyextremophiles before they sent Curiosity to Mars. It needs to be understood in this context of growing research. The article linked to didn't mention this research I know, but these feature articles even in Nature often don't go into great depth.

Need for neutral view and balance[edit]

Hope this is understandable. And hope you like what I've done with your edit!

Personally I also think there is a probability possibly greater than the target probability of 0.01% that Mars has been contaminated in the case of some missions, especially Phoenix and other missions that have landed or crash landed at higher lattitudes on Mars - and I would argue that we should, as some urgency, send a spacecraft to Mars to inspect one of our previous missions, such as Phoenix, to see if it has contaminated Mars, and if so decide what to do about it.

But that is a personal view, and shouldn't go into the article. Unless we find good primary research saying this, if so that can be included, later in the article. Well seems to me anyway.

If you do want to include more about this particular feature article in nature, I suggest, do so in the new section I created for this, and the best way to do it is to use the same wording as the original author, and to attribute it to the author, and take care to make sure your edit expresses the views of the author of the article as best you can. E.g. say "Author of a feature article in Nature said such and such" - or whatever - but I'm not sure if that is appropriate for wikipedia, it's not really quite newsworthy enough.

The "Over Protection of Mars" article however was well notable enough to include in wikipedia so I've added a new section for that, see below. Robert Walker (talk) 08:10, 16 August 2014 (UTC)

New section Proposal to end planetary protection for Mars - "The Over Protection of Mars" paper[edit]

This was big news last November, so thought it should be mentioned here. Both the original article, and of course in interests of balance, the planetary protection officer Catherine Conley's rebuttal (which did not get the same amount of news coverage at the time).

Removed sentence "Sterilization is not appropriate for backward contamination protection. The science value of any returned samples is diminished if they are sterilized."[edit]

This is not in any of the sources I've read and indeed, the NSF recommends that when the capsule is opened, that the first samples are sterilized and that unsterilized samples should only be released to scientists once the sample is thoroughly studied.

Also, the recommendation of the ESF is that [1]

“No uncontained Mars materials, including space craft surfaces that have been exposed to the Mars environment should be returned to Earth unless sterilised" (that's also a quote from the NSF report)

... "For unsterilised samples returned to Earth, a programme of life detection and biohazard testing, or a proven sterilisation process, shall be undertaken as an absolute precondition for the controlled distribution of any portion of the sample.”

- have added that quote to the section in place of your edit.

That is unless you are talking about my own suggestion I made in Science20 articles to sterilize the whole sample on the basis that the past life which is the main target has been subject to at least many millions of years of sterilizing radiation anyway - that's not a published suggestion. Is just a remark in an opinion piece on my blog. Not been published and not had any follow up articles on it therefore either way. It is done in spirit of Science20 where you publish early, long before peer review, and revise and continue your ideas. So - shouldn't be mentioned here, neither that nor any replies to it.

There is also an anecdote that Robert Zubrin tells about someone who suggested the sample be sterilized first, and he then gives his reply to that which is pretty much what you say in your edit - but again, that's just an anecdote, reporting a conversation and the suggestion itself is just in conversation.

I think that as an anecdote, neither the suggestion nor his reply is noteworthy enough to include. I don't know of any published paper on this subject in either direction - and of course his anecdote as never published, isn't peer reviewed and has had no critical replies.

If I have misunderstood, or if you have a citation for your edit - please say where you saw it and give the reference.

Hope this is acceptable, thanks! Robert Walker (talk) 14:29, 19 August 2014 (UTC)

Not sure what to do about the quote “The need for sterilization is only temporary. Mars and possibly Venus need to remain uncontaminated only until study by manned ships becomes possible”[edit]

That is indeed a quote from CESEX, but - you might get the impression from the way it's mentioned in the history that COSPAR have the same policy.

But, as you see from the next paragraph in the history, "that all practical steps should be taken to ensure that Mars be not biologically contaminated until such time as this search can have been satisfactorily carried out, "

which obviously precludes human landings unless they can be done in such a way as to prevent biological contamination of Mars - or else - after the search for life has been successfully completed.

That relates to the suggestion to include a section on planetary protection in case of human missions to Mars. It would be a challenging section to write, mainly because there is no clearly defined policy yet. Suggestions and recommendations, and several workshops on the subject - but all qualified with "Needs more research". And many views expressed on the matter in other papers.

To take one of many quotes you can find[2]:

"The committee does not, however, take a position on whether human missions to Mars will or will not necessarily broadly contaminate the martian surface with terrestrial microorganisms—a topic that will require extensive study and possibly research and development (R&D)."

Later reports go into more details but end similarly with a statement that more research is needed.

Meanwhile, I introduced a new para before "In 1959 planetary protection was transferred to the newly formed Committee on Space Research (COSPAR)" - which helps make it clear that the COSPAR recommendation that follows is a new policy and not an addendum to the CESEX policy statement.Robert Walker (talk) 10:48, 23 August 2014 (UTC)

  1. ^ Mars Sample Return backward contamination – Strategic advice and requirements- forward and section 1.2
  2. ^ Preventing the forward contamination of Mars 2006}