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50 years ago, NASA relaxed the quarantine rules to return to the moon missions

The lunar quarantine has fallen – Science News, May 8, 1971

Spaceships and Earth men can contaminate space … with Earth-related material or organisms. But there is also the possibility that material returned from another celestial body may contain something harmful to Earth … Last week (NASA) announced that (it will recommend) … that "new lunar missions do not have to be subject to quarantine "(because) …" there is no danger to man, animal or plants "of anything brought back to the moon.


The last lunar mission from the United States to return to Earth, Apollo 17, did not have to be quarantined on its return in 1972. But missions to the Moon continued under strict protocols to prevent spacecraft from contaminating it. By 2020, NASA has exempted most of the moon — fewer areas of scientific interest and historic sites — from those rules (SN: 11/23/19, p. 10). However, for missions to other planets still apply strict anti-pollution measures. NASA has called for research into possible risks as it aims to land humans on Mars in the 2030s.

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