(A Viking lander being prepared for dry heat sterilization)
On paper, as most advocacy based idealism, they hold a sound appeal. In relation to the advocacy of “Planetary Protection” and planned Solar System space programs, the discussion put forth (although not a new idea as NASA already have a Planetary Protection policy) is that future manned and unmanned Space programs must adhere to the protection of new planetary environments, as some of these planets may hold primitive and/or complex life. So, a prudent measure would be not to contaminate the environments of the planets and moons in our Solar System. As the most durable life on Earth, bacteria, can survive in the Vacuum if Space and the irradiated hostility of the Cosmos. Which, by it’s definition, may have already (if early life did exist) discounted any possibility that there are complex organisms which reside on planets and moons within our Solar System. Regardless of the current assumption that life may or may not exist in our Solar System, at this point in time there is no proof of life accept for what is here on Earth. The theory of Planetary Protection is that we could transport Earth bacteria to Mars, that even with no complex life existing apart from microbial life – a cross contamination may occur.
However I personally believe that Jupiter’s moon Europa may harbor a complex array, beneath it’s ice exterior, of ‘sea’ life than any other planets and moons observed so far. But the fear remains that future exploration from Earth to Jupiter’s moons – a broad contamination may impact. The concern that any Earth based bacteria would have any significant impact on our Solar System remains within the realms of speculation. As any ‘impact’ would be minimal to negligible as set out with the The Coleman-Sagan equation. Therefor “Planetary Protection” with it’s various ethicist and advocacy view points in some ways, as it begins to voice for stricter requirements for Space Exploration, may in fact, as noted by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in their study of individual and group bias planning – will end up conveying what is known as the planning fallacy. Rather than achieving rational outcomes. It may actually hold back human and artificial intelligence exploration into the Solar System