Planetary Protection Organic Inventory and Archiving Workshop

Registration is now open for the hybrid Planetary Protection (PP) Organic Inventory and Archiving Workshop, which will take place at NASA Headquarters from Feb.  27-28, 2024.



NASA-STD-8719.27 currently follows Committee of Space Research (COSPAR) guidelines and requires organic inventory reporting for Category II, III and IV missions and organic archiving requirements for Category III and IV missions in the PP Pre-Launch Report.

Based on the current policy organic inventory is required for Category II missions to Earth’s Moon (IIa limited to propulsion inventory only, IIb regular inventory); Category III missions, if probability of impact at a sensitive solar system body is significant; and all Category IV missions. In addition to generating an organic inventory, Category III and Category IV missions may also be required to document and archive spacecraft organics present in larger quantities (i.e., >25 kg).

In working with COSPAR’s Panel on Planetary Protection and NASA missions, The Office of Planetary Protection (OPP) is trying to assess the intent and added value of organics reporting and archiving to enable current and future science exploration for sensitive solar system targets.

Currently, the OPP maintains internal records of organic inventories supplied by missions in the event of a contamination event at a target body and to draw upon evidence as needed for future analysis. There is also a bulk organic archive from NASA Mars missions dating back to Viking that could be accessed by the scientific community, as needed.

Given that most of the data and archived material is either proprietary or contains supplier sensitive information, the widespread use to the scientific community is extremely limited. Science also imposes mission unique requirements to understand background contamination for sensitive organic payloads or sample return missions, which are typically performed in parallel to the standard PP requirements. Thus, raising questions as to the value added if the science community does not have access to such archives and anyhow has mission-specific requirements to protect current mission science goals. 

Advances in contamination control and science should be considered in evaluating organic contamination requirements for PP. For example, organic inventory as a reporting requirement does not inform on the amount or type of contamination that could occur at a target body.

Reporting also does not consider contamination reduction and mitigation activities regularly performed by missions as part of the assembly, integration and test process, such as elevated temperature bakeouts, thermal vacuum testing and outgassing verification tests. Additionally, hardware design elements such as the use of seals, shields, labyrinth enclosures, organic absorptive materials and filters further mitigate contamination of spacecraft to a local environment. Organic inventory reporting becomes an even more complex issue for crewed missions to Earth’s Moon and Mars.

Event Information

In this workshop, NASA would like to explore the topic of molecular contamination to

  • Evaluate the current organic inventory and archiving requirements in NASA PP policy.
  • Provide a modernized, updated scientific and engineering-balanced rationale and approach to capturing molecular contamination to enable current and future science investigations.
  • Identify knowledge gaps or additional policy inconsistencies that need to be addressed.

Simply put — Do we have the right requirements? If not, what would be value-added to enable current and future science?

We envision this workshop to be the first step in helping to assess the topic and identifying the next steps forward, but the topic will certainly require additional follow-on workshops, discussion, modeling and testing.

The goal of this effort is to bring together the scientific and spacecraft engineering and contamination modeling communities to discuss this topic. The issue of molecular contamination can be broken into three key areas for consideration:

  1. Multispecies Materials Outgassing Testing and Modeling — Characterization of Organics from Materials Outgassing.
  2. Induced Contamination Thruster Plume Surface Interactions, Landing Site Alteration, Organic Footprint and Acceleration/Dispersion of Dust and Regolith.
  3. Organic Contamination from Venting and Leakage (Environmental Control, Life Support, IVA Science and Spacecraft Systems).

This is an open invitation with limited in-person participation (based on room size).