Physics and Astronomy Publications
The COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy for robotic missions to Mars: A review of current scientific knowledge and future perspectives
Life Sciences in Space Research
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Planetary protection guidance for martian exploration has become a notable point of discussion over the last decade. This is due to increased scientific interest in the habitability of the red planet with updated techniques, missions becoming more attainable by smaller space agencies, and both the private sector and governments engaging in activities to facilitate commercial opportunities and human-crewed missions. The international standards for planetary protection have been developed through consultation with the scientific community and the space agencies by the Committee on Space Research's (COSPAR) Panel on Planetary Protection, which provides guidance for compliance with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. In 2021, the Panel evaluated recent scientific data and literature regarding the planetary protection requirements for Mars and the implications of this on the guidelines. In this paper, we discuss the COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy for Mars, review the new scientific findings and discuss the next steps required to enable the next generation of robotic missions to Mars.