NASA wants to make sure we don’t unknowingly take organisms or other contaminants from Earth to other worlds (and vice-versa) when humans start exploring space beyond Low Earth Orbit. In a tweet, NASA Administrator Jim Brindestine has announced that the agency has updated its policies to reflect that commitment ahead of the upcoming Artemis missions. “We will protect scientific discoveries and the Earth’s environment, while enabling dynamic human exploration and commercial innovation on the Moon and Mars,” he wrote.
While the space agency has been sending rovers and other unmanned spacecraft to the Moon and Mars, it’s concerned about the biological contaminants associated with human presence. If we unknowingly take contaminants to other worlds when we start human exploration, we risk compromising the search for extraterrestrial life. At the same time, NASA wants to ensure its crewed missions don’t cause adverse changes to Earth’s environment with the introduction of contaminants from outer space.