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Planetary Protection

Planning for space exploration in the solar system involves far more than rockets, astronauts, and planets. Mission planners must also consider planetary protection, the prevention of human-caused cross-contamination of planets and other solar system bodies during exploration. From the earliest days of the space program, scientists recognized the very real possibility of contaminating extraterrestrial locations by the inadvertent delivery of microbes in or on spacecraft and equipment launched from Earth. International deliberations about these concerns began in the Sputnik era in the late 1950s and led eventually to the passage of the United Nations Outer Space Treaty (OST) of 1967, which stipulates that exploration of outer space and other celestial bodies shall be done in ways that avoid harmful contamination of planetary bodies as well ...

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