NASA has awarded the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, a $4.7 million contract to support current and future planetary protection missions to ensure compliance with planetary protection standards.
The five-year contract began on July 1, NASA said on Friday.
Some of the upcoming NASA science missions that will be supported by this contract include the Mars 2020 and Europa Clipper missions, and preparations for NASA''s Mars Sample Return mission.
In addition, future human spaceflight exploration under NASA''s Artemis programme, such as the Gateway lunar orbital outpost, the Human Lander System, and Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, will be supported under this contract.
The SETI Institute will work with NASA''s Office of Planetary Protection (OPP) to provide technical reviews and recommendations and validate biological cleanliness on flight projects.
It will also provide training for NASA and its partners, as well as develop guidelines for implementation of NASA requirements, and disseminate information to stakeholders and the public.
"The depth of mission experience and breadth of knowledge on the SETI Institute team will help NASA meet the technical challenges of assuring forward and backward planetary protection on the anticipated path of human exploration from the Moon to Mars," said Lisa Pratt, NASA's planetary protection officer at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
The role of NASA's Office of Planetary Protection is to promote responsible exploration of the solar system by protecting both Earth and mission destinations from biological contamination.
Planetary protection preserves environments, as well as the science, ensuring verifiable scientific exploration for extraterrestrial life.