SP-4902 The Planetary Quarantine Program


NASA Advisory Groups


[15] THE FIRST TWO ADVISORY GROUPS which NASA established in the life sciences, the so-called Lovelace and Kety Committees, have been mentioned. They were concerned with organizational and administrative aspects rather than with technical or program problems. After the Office of Life Sciences was established in NASA Headquarters (largely as a result of the recommendations of the Kety Committee), its Director, Dr. Randt, established three advisory committees. One on Flight Medicine and Biology was chaired by Dr. Lovelace. A second on Space Medical and Behavioral Sciences was chaired by Dr. Robert S. Morison of the Rockefeller Foundation. Spacecraft sterilization and planetary quarantine, as well as exobiology, were handled by a third group, the NASA Advisory Committee on Space Biology. Dr. Melvin Calvin of the University of California, Berkeley, was Chairman. Other members were Dr. Philip H. Abelson, Carnegie Institution; Dr. Sidney W. Fox, Florida State University; Dr. Norman H. Horowitz (Vice-Chairman), California Institute of Technology; Dr. Henry Linschitz, Brandeis University; Dr. C.S. Pittendrigh, Princeton University; Dr. Carl E. Sagan, then at the University of California, Berkeley; and Dr. Ernest C. Pollard, Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Richard S. Young, NASA headquarters, served as secretary.

Within NASA headquarters there was also established a Biosciences Subcommittee of the Space Sciences Steering Committee with Drs. Freeman Quimby, Chairman; Richard Young, Secretary; and George Jacobs, Siegfried Gerathewohl, G. Dale Smith, and Jack Posner, members. During 1960 and 1961, the groups held several meetings with invited visitors and consultants.

[16] NASA also organized two ad hoc conferences on spacecraft sterilization, in which NASA officials met with invited scientists from other government agencies and outside institutions. The first of these was held at NASA headquarters in January 1961. It was chaired by Dr. Randt, and its proceedings were edited by Jack Posner and published as NASA Technical Note D-771. The second such meeting was held in July 1962 after the reorganization which abolished the Office of Life Sciences. This conference was chaired by Dr. Reynolds and George Hobby of JPL. Its proceedings were edited by Dr. Quimby and published as NASA Technical Note D-1357. Some 20 to 25 attendees were present at these two conferences.

The SSB also arranged special ad hoc meetings at which spacecraft sterilization, or the need for it, was a subject for consideration. Biology was one subject considered by the SSB summer study at Ames, Iowa. This will be discussed later. Three other SSB-sponsored meetings applicable to planetary quarantine, all held in Washington and chaired by Dr. Allan H. Brown, were "Conference on Hazard of Planetary Contamination due to Microbial Contamination of Interior of Spacecraft Components," July 28, 1964; "Conference on Potential Hazards of Back-Contamination from Planets," July 29-30, 1964, and "Ad hoc Panel on Study of Biological Quarantine of Venus," January 1967.

A recommendation from the second of these meetings, that both the samples returned from the Moon and the astronauts themselves be quarantined on their return until found free of possible extraterrestrial microorganisms, led directly to the decision by NASA to construct the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at Houston before the first Apollo mission landed on the Moon. This quarantine policy is discussed later in more detail.




Formal advisory services were reestablished in 1965 for the PQ office through a contract with the AIBS. From then on, AIBS organized and managed technical seminars on planetary research and developed a technically qualified group to formulate and recommend the advice supplied by AIBS to the Planetary Quarantine Officer.

This advisory group has been known progressively as the AIBS Spacecraft Sterilization Advisory Committee (1965-1967), the AIBS Planetary Quarantine Advisory Committee (1968-1970), the AIBS Planetary Quarantine Advisory Panel (1970-1972), and, currently, the AIBS Planetary Quarantine Panel (1973).

The Chairman through all these changes of nomenclature has been [17] Professor Richard G. Bond of the University of Minnesota. Membership has changed from year to year, and not all current members have participated in each meeting. A list of members appears in Table II.


Table II. AIBS planetary quarantine advisory panel, 1965-1973.



Professor Richard G. Bond, Chairman
University of Minnesota
Dr. Robert Angelotti
Food and Drug Administration
Dr. John R. Bagby, Jr.
Colorado State University
Dr. John H. Brewer
Hardin-Simmons University
Mr. William B. Briggs
McDonnell-Douglas Astronautics
1972 -
Dr. Allan H. Brown
University of Pennsylvania
Dr. Byron W. Brown, Jr.
Stanford University Medical Center
Mr. Mark A. Chatigny
University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Frank B. Engley, Jr.
University of Missouri
Dr. Franklin A. Graybill
Colorado State University
Professor Thomas W. Kethley
Georgia Institute of Technology
Dr. James C. Konen
Consultant, Ashland Chemical
Dr. Gilbert V. Levin
Biospherics Incorporated
Dr. Morton W. Miller
University of Rochester
Dr. Irving J. Pflug
University of Minnesota
Dr. Richard W. Porter
General Electric Company
Dr. Orr E. Reynolds
American Physiological Society
Dr. Gerald Silverman
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mr. H.D. Sivinski
Sandia Corporation
Dr. H. Earle Swim
University of Kentucky
Dr. John A. Ulrich
University of New Mexico
Dr. Wolf V. Vishniac
University of Rochester
Dr. William G. Walter
Montana State University
Mr. Robert P. Wolfson
Systems Consultant
Advisory Scientist
Dr. Irving J. Pflug
University of Minnesota
Ms. Mary-Frances Thompson
American Institute of Biological Sciences


[18] The purposes of the Panel are to

1. Review the broad aspects of the PQ program
2. Review research data of PQ interest upon which NASA policy
decisions are based
3. Prepare recommendations for technical changes in PQ policy or confirm policies
4. Evaluate research proposals


In 1965, the same year the first panel was organized, AIBS set up for the Planetary Quarantine Program a National Conference on Spacecraft Sterilization Technology on the California Institute of Technology campus in Pasadena. This was attended by about 300 persons. Some 36 formal papers were presented over a period of three days, and they, together with discussions, were published by NASA as SP-108 in 1966.

No large national conferences followed, although there was an international meeting in London in 1967 just before the COSPAR meeting there. The papers presented, together with discussions, were published by COSPAR as Manual No. 4 of their Technique Manual Series under the title Sterilization Techniques for Instruments and Materials as Applied to Space Research.

In 1968 the AIBS Planetary Quarantine Panel started the practice of holding smaller semiannual NASA Spacecraft Sterilization Technology Seminars. The purpose of the seminars was to permit the PQ Officer to monitor contracts, to inform the PQ Officer and the AIBS PQ Panel of progress made in the supporting research and technology program, and to foster an interchange of ideas and recent developments in spacecraft sterilization. For these seminars research contractors prepared abstracts rather than formal papers, since much of what was reported was work in progress. The panel and NASA officials selected from these abstracts the work they wanted presented in great detail; thus, the technology seminars consisted of informal oral presentations by certain contractors and discussions which were not formally published. Other contractors and prospective contractors were invited to attend the seminars if they wanted to keep up with work related to their own.

Following is a list of these Spacecraft Technology Seminars and their locations:

June 1968

Cape Kennedy, Florida

February 1969

Cape Kennedy, Florida

September 1969

Las Vegas, Nevada

April 1970

Atlanta, Georgia

December 1970

Williamsburg, Virginia

June 1971

Seattle, Washington

[19] January 1972

Cape Kennedy, Florida

July 1972

San Francisco, California

January 1973

New Orleans, Louisiana

July 1973

Denver, Colorado




Recently, the NASA Life Sciences Committee, operating under the NASA Space Program Advisory Council, has undertaken to review and advise on the adequacy of the planetary quarantine measures employed by planetary missions.