Legal and Ethical Planetary Protection Frameworks for Crewed Missions

Melissa de Zwart, Stacey Henderson, Rachel Neef

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The Artemis Accords foreshadow a return of humans to the Moon, after a prolonged absence, and from the Moon on to Mars. Much has been learned from continuous human presence in Low Earth Orbit but the habitation of humans on the Moon and Mars will create new challenges. This includes not only the existential issues of sufficient nutrition, air, water, and a sustainable habitat, but also the potential for contamination of the Moon and Mars environment and of return of harmful contamination to Earth. The potential for both ‘forward’ and ‘backward’ contamination has been recognized since the dawn of space exploration. Guidelines are already in place which prescribe protection mechanisms and processes for accessing ‘special regions’ of Mars. This chapter will outline the application of existing laws regarding ‘harmful contamination’ in the context of the plan to send humans to Mars in the near future and consider the need for ethical and legal frameworks for crewed missions beyond Low Earth Orbit. It will also consider the growing interest in addressing the potential human impact on Mars as a unique environment addressing ethical, as well as environmental and scientific, concerns.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHuman Uses of Outer Space
Subtitle of host publicationReturn to the Moon
EditorsMelissa de Zwart, Stacey Henderson, John Culton, Deborah Turnbull, Amit Srivastava
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-19-9464-7
ISBN (Print)978-981-19-9461-6
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NameIssues in Space
ISSN (Print)2662-902X
ISSN (Electronic)2662-9038


  • Space exploration
  • Mars
  • Moon
  • Ethics
  • Environmental behaviour
  • Sustainability


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