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To Prevent a Martian Plague, NASA Must Construct a Very Special Lab


The potential for tardiness presented “significant programmatic risk” to the Mars Sample Return, the team determined. In spite of everything, the return is prone to be more complicated, with reference to paperwork, than that of purely terrestrial projects.

NASA wants its project to comply with international planetary-protection policies in addition to its own complementary ones. The Sample Receiving Facility would also need to be approved through the National Environmental Policy Act process, which might require producing an environmental-impact statement. The spacecraft and its at-home facility may, moreover, need to cope with National Security Presidential Directive 25, which rules over scientific and technological experiments that might have big environmental effects. This just isn’t to neglect official interest from the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services with the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Homeland Security and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and potentially other state and native governments.

But engaging with the general public, not only government agencies, was also key to a project’s success, the team found. Being transparent with the general public, Dr. Rummel said, is essential not simply to gaining public support but to keeping the trouble accountable and secure. “Total openness is the one thing that’s going to make this work, which implies that you will have to do the suitable thing,” he said.

“Should you thought you had any of this that you simply had to maintain secret, you then shouldn’t be doing it,” he added.

The ability’s builders may have to contemplate public interest, not only research, when they convey. When Scott Hanton, editorial director of the publication Lab Manager, thinks concerning the perception and communication challenges NASA will face with the Sample Receiving Facility, two more acronyms come to mind: NIMBY and WIIFM. Not In My Backyard and What’s in It For Me, which need to be balanced.

The reply to the latter, Dr. Hanton thinks, has to come back from a resident’s personal viewpoint. “Not only from the scientist’s perspective of learning something latest,” he said. “But why should the neighborhood, the region, the state, the country, embark on this investment and this risk?”

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