Planetary Contamination II: Soviet and U.S. Practices and Policies

by Bruce Murray, Merton E. Davies, P. K. Eckman

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Prepared as the second part of a two-part symposium article for [Science] and as a publication of the Caltech Division of Geological Sciences, this paper concludes that Soviet space flights have probably transferred to Mars, Venus, and the moon a considerable number of viable terrestrial microorganisms. The stringent U.S. planetary quarantine policy--intended to fulfill recommendations of the Committee for Space Research (COSPAR) of the International Council of Scientific Unions--has imposed on us formidable burdens in cost, lead time, and sterilization-resistant technology. These self-imposed restrictions on the U.S. planetary exploration program cannot reduce the probability of contamination of Mars and Venus below what the Soviets have already made it and will probably continue to add to it. More complete information on Soviet practice is called for, as well as a reevaluation of U.S. and COSPAR policies in the light of this evidence. 24 pp. Ref.

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