NASA’s Planetary Protection Team Conducts Vital Research for Deep Space Missions | Space

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This mold from the genus Cladosporium was collected from the surface of a cleanroom table at Marshall. This and other microbes within cleanrooms pose the biggest threat to spacecraft cleanliness and meeting Planetary Protection requirements. Credit Jacobs Engineering/Chelsi Cassilly.

As NASA continues its exploration of the solar system, including future crewed missions to Mars, experts in the agency’s Office of Planetary Protection are developing advanced tactics to prevent NASA expeditions from introducing biological contaminants to other worlds.

At NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the Planetary Protection team is contributing to this work – pursuing new detection, cleaning, and decontamination methods that will protect alien biospheres, safeguard future planetary science missions, and prevent potentially hazardous microbes from being returned to Earth. The Planetary Protection team is a part of the Space Environmental Effects (SEE) team in Marshall’s Materials and Processes Laboratory.

Planetary Protection microbiologist Chelsi Cassilly said much of Planetary Protection focuses on “bioburden” which is typically considered the number of bacterial endospores (commonly referred to as “spores”)…

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