2 October 2009. The report of the COSPAR Workshop on “Planetary Protection for Outer Planet Satellites and Small Solar System Bodies” which took place at ESPI on 15-17 April 2009 has now been released
The report co-edited by John D. Rummel the Chair of the COSPAR Panel on Planetary Protection, Pascale Ehrenfreund from the Space Policy Institute of George Washington University and Nicolas Peter from ESA (at that time ESPI Research Fellow) entitled “COSPAR Workshop on Planetary Protection for Outer Planet Satellites and Small Solar System Bodies” is the result of a two and a half day workshop where around 30 scientists, agency officials from North America, Europe and Japan gathered (related webnews here).
The COSPAR Workshop was successful in achieving its stated goals that were to review existing categorisation and establish new categorisation; address the categorisations of future missions to the Outer Planet satellites and make recommendations both to improve the COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy and to resolve scientific uncertainties associated with the Workshop’s conclusions.
Among the main findings of the report (download here) during the deliberations of the Workshop, a number of bodies in the outer Solar System were identified as being potentially the II+ category (denoting a body that is of interest to chemical evolution and the origin of life, but whose potential to support living organisms is undecided), including at least Titan, Ganymede, Triton, and the Pluto-Charon system. Of these objects, Titan is the highest priority target for a near-term robotic flagship mission. To address concerns raised by the current Workshop, another dedicated Workshop on Titan is planned to be held jointly by NASA, ESA, and COSPAR during the winter of 2009-2010, to include additional experts on Titan and to inspect detailed information about the most recent Cassini-Huygens results. The conclusions of the COSPAR Workshop on Planetary Protection for Outer Planet Satellites and Small Solar System Bodies and the context provided by the report will also be reported to the Panel on Planetary Protection at the next Scientific Assembly of COSPAR in 2010 in Bremen (Germany). Additionally, formal resolutions to incorporate these recommendations into the COSPAR policy will be made at the Business Meeting of the Panel at the Assembly.
From left: John D. Rummel, Pascale Ehrenfreund, Nicolas Peter and Kai-Uwe Schrogl