Furthering research, exploration, and the peaceful use of outer spacethrough international cooperation
COSPAR Policy on Planetary Protection, approved by the COSPAR Bureau on 3 June 2021.
COSPAR Panel on Planetary Protection briefing on “The role of the COSPAR Panel on Planetary Protection“.
The Panel, led by a Chair with the support of two Vice Chairs, consists in equal numbers, on one hand, of appointed members who represent the national or international authority responsible for compliance with the UN Outer Space Treaty of 1967, and on the other hand, of representatives of COSPAR Scientific Commissions B – Space Studies of the Earth-Moon System, Planets and Small Bodies of the Solar Systems, and F-Life Sciences as Related to Space. The COSPAR Bureau formally appoints the Panel leadership and members.
The Chair of the Panel may not represent a national or international authority responsible for compliance with the UN Outer Space Treaty of 1967, but is chosen for his or her stature as an established leader of international space science, and ability to oversee the expeditious execution of the Panel’s responsibilities in such manner that COSPAR is recognized as fulfilling its responsibilities to provide accepted guidelines on planetary protection to guide compliance with the wording of the UN Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and other international agreements. The appointment of the Chair is for four years, and is renewable once.
The two Vice Chairs of the Panel are as follows: one is chosen for his or her detailed knowledge of planetary protection issues and may concurrently represent a national or international authority responsible for compliance with the UN Outer Space Treaty of 1967; one is appointed by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) to ensure that COSPAR is fulfilling its responsibilities under the UN Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The appointment of each Vice Chair is for four years and is renewable once.
The Panel on Planetary Protection (PPP) is concerned with biological interchange in the conduct of solar system exploration and use, including: (1) possible effects of contamination of planets other than the Earth, and of planetary satellites within the solar system by terrestrial organisms; and (2) contamination of the Earth by materials returned from outer space carrying potential extraterrestrial organisms. The primary objective of the Panel within COSPAR is to develop, maintain, and promulgate clearly delineated policies that provide specific requirements as to the standards that must be achieved to protect against the harmful effects of such contamination. These policies must be based upon the most current, peer-reviewed scientific knowledge, and should be based upon the principle that COSPAR planetary protection policies should enable the exploration and use of the solar system, not prohibit it. It is not the purpose of the Panel to specify the means by which adherence to the COSPAR planetary protection policy is achieved; the best and most cost effective means to adhere to the COSPAR planetary protection requirements is reserved to the engineering judgment of the organization responsible for the planetary mission, subject to certification of compliance with the COSPAR planetary protection requirements by the national or international authority responsible for compliance with the UN Outer Space Treaty. However, the Panel should make every effort, through symposia, workshops, and topical meetings at COSPAR Assemblies, to provide an international forum for the exchange of information on the best practices for adhering to the COSPAR planetary protection requirements. Through COSPAR the Panel will inform the international community, e.g., the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) of the United Nations, as well as various other bilateral and multilateral organizations, of policy developments on planetary protection.
“The COSPAR Panel on Planetary Protection Role, Structure and Activities,” published in Space Research Today, Number 205, August 2019
The Chair of the Panel will convene all official meetings of the Panel, the purpose of which is to continuously consider and evaluate the best available scientific knowledge of the risks of forward and backward contamination and the most expeditious means to avoid such contamination, and to discuss and propose to the Bureau and Council for adoption, as needed, updates and revisions of the COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy. The Chair will determine the agenda for the meeting, soliciting inputs from the Vice Chair(s) and members. The announcement of an official meeting of the Panel will be made at least two months in advance, and when possible will occur in concert with COSPAR Assemblies, Symposia, and/or Bureau meetings to encourage maximum attendance. In special circumstances, meetings, and the discussions and determination of recommendations, can be held electronically. When possible, the official meetings of the Panel will be held in conjunction with an open meeting at which experts on planetary protection who are drawn from representatives of COSPAR’s National Scientific Institutions, International Scientific Unions, and COSPAR Scientific Commissions, as well as any interested scientists, engineers and industry representatives, can discuss and offer their opinions on matters being considered by the Panel. When decided by the Panel, the official Panel meeting will also be held in a closed session in addition to the open session. The COSPAR Executive Director can be invited ex officio to the official meeting of the Panel.
The Chair of the Panel is also responsible for ensuring that the Panel informs the international community, e.g., the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) of the United Nations, as well as various other bilateral and multilateral organizations, of the COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy.
Reports of Panel activities, and any recommendations for modification of the COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy, are made to the COSPAR Bureau and Council.