Risks and Benefits in the Astrobiological Exploration of Other Worlds

Friday, February 17, 2017: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Room 202 (Hynes Convention Center)
As the scientific study of the planet Mars and the ocean worlds of the outer solar system continues, the European Space Agency is joining NASA in this exploration, and numerous other space agencies are conducting or participating in Mars missions. These ongoing explorations are now largely driven by the potential to discover other organisms, alive or dead, in our solar system. Questions of geology, geochemistry, atmospherics, and solar system origins are also being asked and answered, but the possibility of discovering life has captured people’s imagination. Much of the funding for missions above the billion-dollar mark is tied in one way or another to questions of astrobiology. Yet such missions carry both great promise and great risk. One obvious risk is that a mission could misidentify the terrestrial contamination it carried with it as alien. Conversely, if extraterrestrial life were captured by a spacecraft and returned to Earth, it could represent a significant danger to our planet. This session explores the potential risks facing astrobiology missions to Mars, Europa, and Enceladus (and elsewhere?) and examines the policies and procedures intended to control those risks.
John Rummel, SETI Institute
Norine Noonan, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg
John Rummel, SETI Institute
Penelope Boston, NASA Astrobiology Institute
The Astrobiological Exploration of Earth and Mars
Norine Noonan, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg
Issues of Risk and Benefit in Solar System Exploration Missions
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