Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

The overprotection of Mars

Planetary protection policies aim to guard Solar System bodies from biological contamination from spacecraft. Costly efforts to sterilize Mars spacecraft need to be re-evaluated, as they are unnecessarily inhibiting a more ambitious agenda to search for extant life on Mars.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: Protecting Mars from Earth contamination.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. NASA Office of Planetary Protection.

  2. Kminek, G. et al. Ad. Space Res. 46, 811–829 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. COSPAR Panel on Planetary Protection.

  4. Mileikowsky, C. et al. Icarus 145, 391–427 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Schidlowski, M. A. Nature 333, 313–318 (1988).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Quantin, C., N. Mangold, W. K. Hartmann & P. Allemand . Icarus 186, 1–10 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Reyes-Ruiz, M. et al. Icarus 220, 777–786 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Perminov, V. G. The difficult road to Mars: A brief history of Mars exploration in the Soviet Union. Monographs in Aerospace History No. 15 (NASA, 1999).

  9. Nicholson, W. L. et al. Icarus 220, 904–910 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Fairén, A. G., A. F. Davila, L. Gago-Duport, R. Amils & C. P. McKay . Nature 459, 401–404 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Davila, A. F., M. Skidmore, A. G. Fairén, C. Cockell & D. Schulze-Makuch . Astrobiology 10, 705–710 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alberto G. Fairén.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Fairén, A., Schulze-Makuch, D. The overprotection of Mars. Nature Geosci 6, 510–511 (2013).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing