“Rethinking Planetary Protection Strategies for Robotic Mars Missions”, Dr Amanda Hendrix, public Zoom lecture, 10 Jan 2022

Cork Astronomy Club looks forward to welcoming Dr Amanda Hendrix of the Planetary Science Institute. In this talk, she will argue that planetary protection rules can be relaxed.       

Dr Amanda Hendrix

Planetary protection deals with trying to prevent terrestrial microorganisms establishing a foothold on other worlds and vice versa. The primary goal is to protect the viability of future search-for-life experiments, so they are not confounded by potential terrestrial microbes. Since the 1970’s, spacecraft bound for places that scientists think may be hospitable to life, first and foremost Mars,  must undergo rigorous pre-launch cleaning procedures. But Dr Hendrix, as the co-chair of the National Academies Committee on Planetary Protection, was charged with determining whether these rules can now be loosened, and is one of the authors of an October 2021 report arguing that some “bioburden” rules can be relaxed somewhat.  “Changes to planetary protection policies should be considered in the context of how much science has learned in recent years about Mars” she says.

Dr Hendrix is a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, based in Tucson, Arizona. She spent many years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, including two years as the Cassini Deputy Project Scientist, and has been part of many planetary science missions, including the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

This lecture will be held via Zoom, and is open to all. There will also be club announcements and sky this month presentation, and if you are new to our Club you will get a feel for our activities.

Start time 7.30 pm, and we aim to finish at 9.00. There will be an opportunity to stay and chat for a few minutes after the end of the formal meeting if you want to. The Zoom link will be sent to all Club members and also to recipients of our guest bulletins. If you are on neither list you can request a Zoom link by emailing us no later than 4 pm on the day of the meeting.

Not familiar with Zoom? If you contact us in good time, we may be able to help. Email us or (except on the day of the lecture) ring Peter on 089-2004553.

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