Hostage to Fortunes: The Legal and Political Future of the Planetary Protection Guidelines

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The rapid advancement of space technology over the last decade has seen a significant increase in more ambitious space missions of exploration beyond Earth. Engineering advances in the construction of planetary rovers has seen advanced robotics coupled with ever increasing advances in artificial intelligence (Carter, 2023). This in turn means that the opportunities for exploring celestial bodies within the solar system are increasing, while the cost of such ventures is falling. The finding of a balance between exploration and protection is not a new challenge (Macaulay 2007) but the diverse range of actors, and the increasing access to space by those who wish to challenge rigid adherence to the Planetary Protection Policy does make the issue more pressing. This discussion will assume that the danger of forward contamination of celestial bodies is a real one (Williamson, 2006, p94-96) and that the chances are significantly increased when dealing with human spaceflight (Williamson, 2006, p123). The inquiry will, therefore, start from the premise that unfettered exploration and exploitation of outer space and celestial bodies should not be accepted unconditionally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-30
Number of pages7
JournalSpace Research Today
Publication statusPublished - 17 Apr 2024

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