NASA contracts SETI to ensure it is compliant with planetary protection standards for present and future missions

SETI will provide technical reviews and recommendations, validate biological cleanliness on flight projects, provide training for NASA and its partners.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded the SETI Institute with a contract for planetary protection. The contract has been given by NASA’s Office of Planetary Protection (OPP) to support all phases of current and future missions to ensure compliance with planetary protection standards.  The contract is effective from 1 July.

“As we return to the Moon, look for evidence of past or present life on Mars and continue our missions of exploration and discovery in the Solar System, Planetary Protection becomes an increasingly important component of mission planning and execution,” said Bill Diamond, President and CEO of the SETI Institute. “We are proud to be NASA’s partner for this mission-critical function, protecting Earth from backward contamination, and helping ensure that the life we may find on other worlds, didn’t come from our own.”

 NASA contracts SETI to ensure it is compliant with planetary protection standards for present and future missions

The SETI Institute will look into protecting both Earth and mission destinations from biological contamination.

The SETI Institute will provide technical reviews and recommendations, validate biological cleanliness on flight projects, provide training for NASA and NASA partners.

Besides, it will develop guidelines for implementation of NASA requirements, and disseminate information to stakeholders and the public.

The OPP’s work includes protecting both Earth and mission destinations from biological contamination. It will also preserve environments, as well as the science, ensuring verifiable scientific exploration for extraterrestrial life.

The maximum value of the contract is $4.7 million and it is for a period of five years.

“The depth of mission experience and breadth of knowledge on the SETI Institute team will help NASA meet the technical challenges of assuring forward and backward planetary protection on the anticipated path of human exploration from the Moon to Mars,” said Lisa Pratt, NASA’s planetary protection officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

According to news agency IANS, the SETI Institute will be assisting the NASA in upcoming missions like the Mars 2020 and Europa Clipper missions, besides preparations for Mars Sample Return mission.

The contract also includes future human spaceflight exploration under NASA's Artemis programme.


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