The challenge of planetary protection

Like space agencies and space enthusiasts of all ages, the COMPASS group is interested in planetary protection, the field of protecting Earth from microorganisms potentially brought back with samples from other planets, as well as protecting those planets from the microbes our probes may take there, as explained by NASA’s Planetary Science Director Jim Green.

The importance of this topic is increasing every year, as exploration missions focus more and more on studying those environments where life could have developed (like Mars and the moons of Jupiter).

Our research focuses on improving the currently available numerical tools used in the design of interplanetary missions to avoid unwanted impacts with and contamination of celestial bodies which may support life. COMPASS has an ongoing PhD project in partnership with the European Space Agency, with the goal of making the verification of planetary protection requirements easier and more reliable. You can read more about our research and its results in the Research section of our website.