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Project Information

Project Information

Planetary Protection Requirements for Sample-Return Missions from Martian Moons

Project Scope:

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will establish an ad hoc committee to review and assess recent research sponsored by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) relating to the planetary protection concern that hypothetical martian life might exist on the surfaces of the martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, consequent to their ejection from the surface of Mars following a major impact event. In particular, the committee will address the following tasks:

1.    Review, in the context of current understanding of conditions relevant to inactivation of carbon-based life, recent theoretical, experimental, and modelling research on the environments and physical conditions encountered by Mars ejecta during the following processes: 

          a) excavation from the martian surface via crater-forming events;

          b) while in transit through cismartian space;

          c) during deposition on Phobos or Deimos; and

          d) after deposition on Phobos or Deimos;

2.    Recommend whether missions returning samples from Phobos and/or Deimos should be classified as "restricted" or "unrestricted" Earth return in the framework of the planetary protection policy maintained by the ICSU Committee on Space Research (COSPAR); and

3.  In what specific ways is classification of sample return from Deimos a different case than sample return from Phobos?
4. What relevant information for classification of sample return is available from published studies of martian meteorites on Earth?
5. What are the planetary protection consequences of taking a surface sample at depths of 0–2 cm versus taking a sample extending down to depths of 2-10 cm or deeper?

6.    Suggest any other refinements in planetary protection requirements that that might be required to accommodate spacecraft missions to and sample returned from Phobos and/or Deimos.


Status: Current


Project Duration (months): 15 month(s)

RSO: Smith, David


Space Studies Board DEPS


Biology and Life Sciences
Space and Aeronautics

Committee Membership

Committee Post Date: 10/20/2017

Dr. David Pearce - (Chair)
DAVID PEARCE is a professor of environmental microbiology in the Department of Applied Sciences at Northumbria University in the United Kingdom. The underlying theme of his research is the use of microbiology to understand polar ecosystem function and the potential for shifts in biogeochemical activity that may result from environmental change. He has worked with the British Antarctic Survey as a microbiologist, head of the Genomic Analysis Section of the Biological Sciences Division, and as an aquatic microbial ecologist. His research interests include microbial biodiversity, environmental microbiology, microbial ecology, molecular ecology, microbial physiology, environmental genomics, extremophiles, life in extreme environments, exploring and applying new technology, and the potential of unknown ecosystems. He is a member of the British Ecological Society and the International Society for Microbial Ecology. He earned his Ph.D. in microbiology from King’s College, University of London. Dr. Pearce previously served on the joint National Academies-ESF Committee on the Review of MEPAG Report on Planetary Protection for Mars Special Regions.
Dr. Athena Coustenis
ATHENA COUSTENIS is a director of research with the National Centre for Scientific Research of France and is currently based at Paris Observatory in Meudon. Dr. Coustenis works in the field of planetology. Her research focuses on the use of ground- and space-based observatories to study solar system bodies. Dr. Coustenis’ current interests include planetary atmospheres and surfaces, with particular emphasis on the satellites of the giant planets. She is also interested in the characterization of the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. In recent years, she has been leading efforts to define and select future space missions to be undertaken by the European Space Agency (ESA) and its international partners. She is the chair of the European Science Foundation’s European Space Science Committee—the nearest equivalent to the SSB in Europe. She has also chaired and served on numerous ESA and NASA advisory groups. She earned her Ph.D. in astrophysics and space techniques from the University of Paris. Dr. Coustenis previous served on the Academies’ Committee on Survey of Surveys: Lessons Learned from the Decadal Survey Process.
Dr. Michael J. Daly
MICHAEL J. DALY is a professor in the Department of Pathology at the Uniformed Services University in Washington, DC. He is an expert in the study of bacteria belonging to the family deinococcaceae, which are some of the most radiation-resistant organisms yet discovered. He received his Ph.D. at Queen Mary University of London. His Academies service includes membership on the Committee on Planetary Protection Standards for Icy Bodies in the Outer Solar System, Committee on Planetary Protection Requirements for Venus Missions, Committee on the Origins and Evolution of Life, Committee on the Astrophysical Context of Life, and Task Group on the Forward Contamination of Europa.
Ms. Abigail Fraeman
ABIGAIL A. FRAEMAN is a research scientist in the planetary science section at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Fraeman specializes in the use of infrared spectroscopy to study the surfaces of Mars, Pbobos and Deimos. She is currently a participating scientist on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a co-investigator on the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and deputy project scientist for the Mars Exploration Rovers. Dr. Fraeman received her Ph.D. in Earth and planetary science from Washington University in St. Louis and her B.S. in physics and geology and geophysics from Yale University. She was selected as a participant in the CAS-NAS Forum for New Leaders in Space Science in 2015, but has not previously served on an Academies committee.
Dr. Guy Libourel
GUY LIBOUREL is a professor at the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur in Nice, France. Prior to this he was at the Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques in Nancy and is an affiliated professor at the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu. He is an experimental cosmochemist whose research focusses on understanding the formation of the first solid in the solar system using high temperature experimental approaches. His current research is centered on thermal and mechanical properties of the regolith on small solar system bodies. He is a co-investigator on NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex and JAXA’s Hayabusa 2 asteroid sample-return missions. He is also the OSIRIS-REx coordinating scientist for sample analysis for mission sample science in Europe. Dr. Libourel obtained his Ph.D. at the Université Paul Sabatier de Toulouse. He has not previously participated on an Academies’ committee.
Dr. Akiko Nakamura
AKIKO M. NAKAMURA is an associate professor in the Center for Planetary Science at Kobe University where she performs laboratory impact experiments to study the velocity distribution of fragments from ejecta and the ejecta from particulate layers. These experiments are designed to provide insights into the collisional evolution of small solar system bodies and regolith formation processes. She was a co-investigator on the camera system on the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa I asteroid sample-return mission. Dr. Nakamura completed her B.S. in 1988, her M.S., and her Ph.D. in 1993, all at Kyoto University.
Mr. Robin Putzar
ROBIN PUTZAR is a senior scientist in the Space Technology Group at the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics (also known as the Ernst-Mach Institute (EMI)) in Freiburg, Germany. Dr. Putzar has led several large studies investigating the effects of hypervelocity impacts on spacecraft components and geological material, including ballistic limit analyses. His research interests include hypervelocity accelerators, and he has led the design of such accelerators at EMI. He was delegate at the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee and served on the Program Committee of the European Conference on Space Debris. He is currently chairman of the Aeroballistic Range Association. He has a baccalaureate degree in engineering, sciences from Technology University of Berlin. He has not previously served on an Academies committee.
Dr. Kaliat T. Ramesh
KALIAT T. RAMESH is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. He is also director of the Center for Advanced Metallic and Ceramic Systems, and director of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute. His research interests are in high strain-rate behavior and dynamic failure of materials, nanostructured materials, injury biomechanics and planetary-scale impact problems. He served as a visiting professor at the University of Cambridge. He has published one book, Nanomaterials: Mechanics and Mechanisms; Springer, 2009. After receiving a B.E. from Bangalore University, he continued to Brown University where he completed his M.S. in engineering. He was awarded his Ph.D. and an additional M.S. in applied mathematics from Brown University. Dr. Ramesh completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the Center of Excellence in Advanced Materials at the University of California, San Diego Dr. Ramesh previously served on the NRC Committee on Opportunities in Protection Materials Science and Technology for Future Army Applications.
Dr. Norman H. Sleep

NORMAN H. SLEEP (NAS) is a professor of geophysics in the School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University. Dr. Sleep’s research interests include studying convection at the base of the lithosphere and the interaction of the lithosphere with mantle plume material. He is also currently investigating the microphysics of friction and applying the results to nonlinear attenuation and ground damage by strong seismic waves. Dr. Sleep is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the Geological Society of America, and the American Geophysical Union. He has received a number of awards for his work including the James B. Macelwane award, the George P. Woollard Award from the Geological Society of America, and the 2008 Wollaston Medal from the Geological Society of London. Dr. Sleep earned a B.S. in mathematics from Michigan State University and a M.S. and Ph.D. in geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has previously served on the National Academies’ Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science, the Committee on Survey of Surveys: Lessons Learned from the Decadal Survey Process, the Committee on Earth Resources, the Committee on Planetary Biology and Chemical Evolution, and currently serves as the NAS Section 15 liaison.

Dr. Megan B. Syal
MEGAN BRUCK SYAL is a physicist in the Design Physics Division at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Dr. Bruck Syal specializes in experimental and numerical simulation of planetary impacts, including hypervelocity impact experiments (with an emphasis on porous and volatile-rich materials) and modeling of impact events in a variety of shock physics codes. Her published and ongoing research includes: impact delivery of carbon and volatiles to Mercury and the Moon, the excavation of Stickney Crater at Phobos, analysis of impactor- and target-derived vapor plumes using high-speed emission spectroscopy, and giant-impact formation of moons in exoplanetary systems. Additionally, Dr. Bruck Syal is very active in the field of planetary defense, supporting: NASA’s DART mission with simulations of the planned 2022 spacecraft impact at Didymos B, NASA-FEMA Asteroid Impact Tabletop Exercises, and a NASA-NNSA interagency collaboration on hazardous asteroid mitigation case studies. Her planetary defense work focuses on numerical simulation of deflection and disruption techniques, with a particular emphasis on understanding sensitivities to asteroid initial conditions. Previously, Dr. Bruck Syal was a postdoctoral researcher at LLNL (2014-2016), a Ph.D. candidate in the Geosciences Department at Brown University (2009-2014), and a data specialist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center (2007-2009). She is a recipient of a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship, a NASA Group Achievement Award (Deep Impact - EPOXI mission Science Team), and a Brown University Graduate Fellowship. Dr. Syal obtained her Ph.D. in planetary geosciences at Brown University. She has not previously served on an Academies’ committee.

Committee Membership Roster Comments

Note 1: Added alternate member Akiko Nakamura 2/16/18



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European Space Science Committee Space Studies Board
Committee on the Review of Planetary Protection Requirements for Sample Return from Phobos and Deimos
7-9 November, 2017
Imperial Hotel
61-66 Russell Square London, WC1B 5BB

Tuesday, 7 November

10:30 a.m. Break
10:45 a.m. Planetary Protection Basics, Gerhard Kminek
Context for Study and ESA Expectations European Space Agency
11:45 a.m. NASA’s Expectations for Study Catharine Conley
NASA Headquarters
12:00 a.m. Introductory Comments from JAXA Akihiko Yamagishi
Institute for Space and Astronautical Science
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
12:15 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. SterLim Team Presentation
3:30 p.m. Break
3:45 p.m. Discussion of Sterilization Limits (TN-13) Kai Finster
4:15 p.m. Discussion of Radiation Simulation (TN-15) Michael Daly
4:45 p.m. Discussion of Hypervelocity Impacts (TN-17/18) K.T. Ramesh, Pobin Putzar,
Megan Bruck Syal and Akiko Nakamura
5:15 p.m. Discussion of Biological Models (TN-21) David Pearce
5:45 p.m. General Discussion to Identify Areas of Consensus/Disagreement Committee and Guests
6:30 p.m. Adjourn for dinner
7:30 p.m. Working Dinner Hubbard & Bell
199-206 High Holborn
9:30 p.m. Adjourn for the Day

Wednesday, 8 November

9:00 a.m. General Discussion of the Committee’s Task Committee and Guests
10:15 a.m. Break
10:30 a.m. General Discussion (continued) Committee and Guests
12:30 p.m. Lunch
2:00 p.m. General Discussion (continued) Committee and Guests

Thursday, 9 November

Is it a Closed Session Event?

Closed Session Summary Posted After the Event

The following committee members were present at the closed sessions of the event:

D. Pearce
A. Coustenis
M.J. Daly
A.A. Fraeman
G. Libourel
A. Nakamura
R. Putzar
K.T. Ramesh
N.H. Sleep
M. Bruck Syal
K. Finster

The following topics were discussed in the closed sessions:

Committee composition and balance discussion. Results obtained by the Open University team and what they mean concerning the planetary protection issues associated with samples returned from Phobos and/or Deimos. Development of a draft outline for the committee's report and discussion of materials drafted during the meeting. Schedule for the completion of the report.

The following materials (written documents) were made available to the committee in the closed sessions:


Date of posting of Closed Session Summary:
November 14, 2017


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