Aliens take note: Only humans can trash this planet.
NASA is taking measures to prevent extraterrestrial-borne contaminants from invading Earth.
Last week, the agency’s Office of Planetary Protection (OPP) said they’d hired the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute to support all current and future missions per OPP’s standards. Researchers at SETI will oversee nearly all aspects of hygiene on future flight projects, and are charged with carrying out new guidelines for “biological cleanliness.”
Founded in 1984 by NASA officials, the SETI Institute is a nonprofit research organization dedicated to answering the question, “Are we alone in the universe?”
One particular concern for the two agencies as they prepare for upcoming missions to the moon, Mars and potentially Venus: extra-terrestrial contaminants brought back to Earth. They also stressed “responsible exploration” and the need to reduce humans’ footprint in outer space.
“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,” Bill Diamond, president and chief executive officer of the SETI Institute, said in a press release. “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.”
Last month, NASA promised to pay tribute to health-care workers fighting our global contaminant, the coronavirus, by including a memorial placard on the Perseverance rover during the next Martian expedition.
“We wanted to demonstrate our appreciation for those who have put their personal well-being on the line for the good of others,” said Matt Wallace, a deputy project manager with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It is our hope that when future generations travel to Mars and happen upon our rover, they will be reminded that back on Earth in the year 2020 there were such people.”