Planetary Protection and Mars Special Regions - A Suggestion for Updating the Definition

Petra Rettberg, Alexandre M. Anesio, Victor R. Baker, John A. Baross, Sherry L. Cady, Emmanouil Detsis, Christine M. Foreman, Ernst Hauber, Gian Gabriele Ori, David A. Pearce, Nilton O. Renno, Gary Ruvkun, Birgit Sattler, Mark P. Saunders, David H. Smith, Dirk Wagner, Frances Westall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


We highlight the role of COSPAR and the scientific community in defining and updating the framework of planetary protection. Specifically, we focus on Mars "Special Regions," areas where strict planetary protection measures have to be applied before a spacecraft can explore them, given the existence of environmental conditions that may be conducive to terrestrial microbial growth. We outline the history of the concept of Special Regions and inform on recent developments regarding the COSPAR policy, namely, the MEPAG SR-SAG2 review and the Academies and ESF joint committee report on Mars Special Regions. We present some new issues that necessitate the update of the current policy and provide suggestions for new definitions of Special Regions. We conclude with the current major scientific questions that remain unanswered regarding Mars Special Regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-125
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2016


  • COSPAR policy
  • Mars special regions
  • Planetary protection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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