Protecting the Lunar and Martian Environments for Scientific Research
30 November 2009

As part of the 38th COSPAR Scientific Assembly to be held in Bremen, Germany between 18-25 July 2010, the PEX1 session will be entitled "Protecting the Lunar and Martian Environments for Scientific Research".

Robotic and then manned missions to Mars appear as one natural next step to explore the conditions for the origin and evolution of life, and how it has interacted with its planetary environment. Thus, missions to the Moon and Mars, and especially those that will involve humans are, from an exploration, science and technology perspective, an extremely exciting challenge of our time, and a broad range of scientific disciplines from physics, chemistry and geology to biology and medicine will benefit from them.

There are several documented advantages to human presence in exploration missions, e.g. adaptability and dexterity of humans; field geology and deep-drilling; long-term in situ analysis of a wide variety of samples (rocks, ice, atmosphere); remote control of on-site robotic activities; adaptability and flexibility of the research experiment portfolio; or in situ repair of explorative and analytical facilities and instruments.

On the other hand, human involvement may also impede the scientific exploration of the planet. For instance planetary protection requirements might hinder access of humans to astrobiologically interesting sites and it may consequently become necessary to establish ‘human-free’ areas on Mars. Naturally a detailed environmental risk assessment is required before humans are sent to Mars. Furthermore activities linked to the establishment and maintenance of a permanent basis on the Moon and then on Mars and, perhaps later on, activities of a more applied nature such as lunar soil mining, can even disrupt durably the environment that scientists plan to study.

In short the question asked is “how can we settle on other bodies with the minimum local disturbance”? Bearing these constraints in mind a rigorous sequence of events must be established well in advance and a careful planning of the overall scenario of the exploration programme is required. Adequate scientific and technological guidelines and the corresponding enforcement means will thus need to be established with the different stakeholders involved.

In this context the topics to be covered through this planning phase (and during this session) encompass: • Hazard types (dust, vibration, electromagnetic radiation, degradation, etc) • Science investigations to be potentially affected (geosciences, telescopes, fundamental physics, astrobiology, etc) • Mitigation techniques • Strategic, programmatic (phasing) and legal issues The session aims at covering these aspects and, more generally, all topics linked to the protection of the lunar and Martian environments for scientific research. This session is of potential interest to planetary scientists, astronomers, fundamental physicists, agency executives, lawyers, policy makers.

This event is co-sponsored by: EANA, IAF, ILEWG.

For more details, please see

Copyright 2009 © IISL. All rights reserved.