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Rettberg P., Anesio A. M., Baker V. R., Baross J. A., Cady S. L., Detsis E., Foreman C. M., Hauber E., Ori G. G., Pearce D. A., Renno N. O., Ruvkun G., Sattler B., Saunders M. P., Smith, David H., Wagner D. and Westall F.

Planetary Protection and Mars Special Regions - A Suggestion for Updating the Definition

Astrobiology (2016) 16 (2) 119-125 - doi : 10.1089/ast.2016.1472

by Frapart - published on , updated on


We highlight the role of COSPAR and the scientific community in defining and updating the framework of planetary protection. Specifically, we focus on Mars ?Special Regions,? areas where strict planetary protection measures have to be applied before a spacecraft can explore them, given the existence of environmental conditions that may be conducive to terrestrial microbial growth. We outline the history of the concept of Special Regions and inform on recent developments regarding the COSPAR policy, namely, the MEPAG SR-SAG2 review and the Academies and ESF joint committee report on Mars Special Regions. We present some new issues that necessitate the update of the current policy and provide suggestions for new definitions of Special Regions. We conclude with the current major scientific questions that remain unanswered regarding Mars Special Regions.