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The Planetary Protection Subcommittee (PPS) is a standing subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council's Science Committee, which supports the advisory needs of the Administrator, the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), SMD's Planetary Science Division, NASA's Planetary Protection Officer, and other NASA Mission Directorates as required. The scope of the PPS includes programs, policies, plans, hazard identification and risk assessment, and other matters pertinent to the Agency's responsibilities for biological planetary protection.
The Galileo and Cassini missions to Jupiter and Saturn have greatly deepened our understanding of those giant planets and their intriguing moons. But they have also raised more questions. With Cassini nearing the end of its lifetime, it is time to plan the next flagship-class mission to the outer planets. Three mission concepts are currently under study for a new mission to launch in the 2016-17 time frame, with a selection of mission concept and destination expected at the end of this year.
The Vision for Space Exploration is fostering a renaissance in lunar science, as the return of humans to the Moon both requires and enables greater scientific understanding of Earth’s natural satellite. The NRC’s recent report “The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon” (NRC, 2007) provides a “mini-decadal survey” to guide a new line of lunar missions. The Planetary Science Division is undertaking a number of new actions to exploit the new focus on the Moon for science:
The Mars Exploration Program is a science-driven program that seeks to understand whether Mars was, is, or can be, a habitable world. To find out, we need to understand how geologic, climatic, and other processes have worked to shape Mars and its environment over time, as well as how they interact today.
Four Science Goals for Mars Exploration
The key to understanding the past, present or future potential for life on Mars can be found in the four broad, overarching goals for Mars Exploration: