For the first time since the Apollo program, NASA and space agencies abroad have plans to bring samples to Earth from elsewhere in the solar system. There are missions in various stages of definition to gather material over the next decade from Mars, an asteroid, comets, the satellites of Jupiter, and the interplanetary dust. Some of these targets, most especially Jupiter's satellites Europa and Ganymede, now appear to have the potential for harboring living organisms.
This book considers the possibility that life may have originated or existed on a body from which a sample might be taken and the possibility that life still exists on the body either in active form or in a form that could be reactiviated. It also addresses the potential hazard to terrestrial ecosystems from extraterrestrial life if it exists in a returned sample. Released at the time of the Internationl Committee on Space Research General Assembly, the book has already established the basis for plans for small body sample retruns in the international space research community.
National Research Council. Evaluating the Biological Potential in Samples Returned from Planetary Satellites and Small Solar System Bodies: Framework for Decision Making. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1998.
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