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  Planetary Protection

The United States is a signatory to the United Nations 1966 Treaty of Principles Governing the Activities of the States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. Known as the "Outer Space Treaty," this document states in part that exploration of the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be conducted "so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter."

The Genesis sample consists of atoms from the Sun. The Genesis mission has been categorized by NASA's planetary protection officer as a mission safe for unrestricted Earth return, because it was concluded that there is no chance of extraterrestrial biological contamination during sample collection at the L1 point. The National Research Council's Space Studies Board has also concurred on a planetary protection designation of unrestricted Earth return. The board determined that the sample has no potential for containing life.

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Curator: Aimee Meyer
Updated: November 2009

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