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1967: Planetary protection officers are established by NASA

Fact: a planetary protection officer exist at NASA since 1967. His duty is to protect science, Earth and explored environments.

NASA named Dr. J. Nick Benardini as the agency Planetary Protection Officer within the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance, effective June 7, 2021. (NASA)

"implementing and developing efforts that protect the science, explored environments and Earth. Planetary Protection is concerned with forward contamination of another world with life from Earth and backward contamination of Earth with a life-form from another world. Forward contamination is assessed by looking for evidence of Earth-like environments on other planetary bodies and considering the potential for a terrestrial microbe, transported on a spacecraft, to find a refuge and remain viable in an extraterrestrial setting. NASA requires every planetary mission to meet stringent requirements for biological cleanliness during assembly and launch of spacecraft. Backward contamination is assessed by looking at each step in the chain of contact from collecting samples on another planetary body through transporting and landing on Earth. NASA carefully analyzes the potential for an as-yet-unknown extraterrestrial life-form to be released on Earth as a result of returning samples for scientific study."



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