Dr. Margaret Race

December 21, 2006

“Analysis and Communication of Planetary Protection Issues for Solar System Missions”


The work proposed under this grant includes research and activities that systematically analyze and communicate critical information about planetary protection (PP) to various audiences.The proposed work is the logical follow-on to a previous grant (NAG 2-6044) on “Addressing Issues in Planetary Protection and Mars Sample Return.” This project will continue to emphasize problem solving, decision making, and communication for solar system missions, including the planned Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission. Four areas of study continue to be important for future mission planning and implementation: 1) analysis of planetary protection issues and concerns associated with Mission Planning, NEPA Compliance and Public Decision Making;  2)  Public Risk Perceptions associated with  mission or related risks, 3) Risk Communication to varied audiences, especially via the mass media, and 4) Education and Public Outreach related to both Mars sample return and Astrobiology. The planned work encompasses research and analysis, communication of findings and information, as well as consulting services and Planetary Protection program support. The context of the overall work is related to NASA’s Astrobiology, Mars Exploration and Solar System Exploration programs and overall planning for human exploration of the solar system. The rationale for undertaking communication related research and activities on behalf of the planetary protection program is to ensure that communications relating to NASA programs and involving planetary protection are timely, accurate, clear, consistent, comprehensive and effective in the context of NASA’s ongoing public affairs, education and public outreach activities.

The PI’s research and activities emphasize the systematic examination and analysis of critical questions relating to planetary protection, and communication of information to both expert and lay audiences in appropriate formats and venues.The Co-I, Billings research and activities encompasses ongoing analysis of communications relating to planetary protection and the development, implementation, and assessment of a communication strategy and implementation plan for planetary protection.The objectives are to ensure that communication is an integral element of planning and implementation for NASA’s planetary protection program, to establish and implement a communication strategy that will advance the goals of the program, and to continuously improve communications relating to the program by monitoring, analysis, and assessment. Consulting activities under the grant provide support for the planetary protection program through research related to deep ocean, extreme environments.