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Planetary Protection Requirements for Sample-Return Missions from Martian Moons

Statement of Task


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.       In what specific ways is classification of sample return from Deimos a different case than sample return from Phobos?

3.       What relevant information for classification of sample return is available from published studies of martian meteorites on Earth?

4.       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?

5.       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

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.



September 18-20, 2018
London, England
View Agenda I View Presentations

November 7-9, 2017
London, England 
View Agenda I View Presentations


David Pearce, Chair
Northumbria University

Andre Antunes
Edge Hill University

Athena Coustenis
National Centre for Scientific Research of France

Michael J. Daly
Uniformed Services University

Abigail Fraeman
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Ansgar Greshake
Museum für Naturkunde

Guy Libourel
Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur

Akiko Nakamura
Kobe University

Francois Poulet
French National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS)

Robin Putzar
Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics

Kaliat T. Ramesh
Johns Hopkins University

Norman H. Sleep
Stanford University

Shino Suzuki
Kochi Institute for Core Sample Research (KOCHI)

Megan B. Syal
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) 

Erin Walton
MacEwan University


David Smith
Senior Program Officer
Mia Brown
Research Associate
Andrea Rebholz
Program Coordinator



Background Information
JAXA Report GNG-2018003 “Assessment of Microbial Contamination Probability for Sample Return from Martian Moons” 
SterLim Tech Note 21: “Evaluation of the level of assurance that no unsterilized Martian material naturally transferred to Phobos (and Deimos) is accessible to a Phobos (and Deimos) sample return mission”
SterLim Tech Note 19, “Description of the sterilisation statistical model”


 Below is an archive list of names and a link to the slides presented at the committee meeting during open session. We have only included the slides for which the presenter has given consent to post.

Presenter names and slides are listed in the order of the agenda.Presentations which have been made available for posting will be added after the panel meeting is complete.


September 18-19, 2018

Gerhard Kminek - permission pending
K. Fujita and A. Yamagishi
Y. Kawakatsu - permission pending
Thomas Statler - no slides
M. Patel, D.  Summers, and D. Evans - permission pending
K. Kurosawa

November 7-9, 2017

Emmanouil Detsis-No slides
David Pearce-No slides
Gerhard Kminek
Catharine Conley
Akihiko Yamagishi-No slides
Manish Patel
Kai Finster-No slides
Michael Daly-Pending permission
K.T. Ramesh-No slides
Robin Putzar
Megan Bruck Syal-No slides
Akiko Nakamura-No slides

* No slides indicate that the presenter did not utilize slides during their presentation.

* Permission pending indicates that the presenter has not given us consent to publish the slides they presented at the meeting.

*Written materials submitted to a study committee by external sources are listed in the project's public access file and can be made available to the public upon request via the Academies Public Access Records Office.