15 Jul 2011



Planetary Protection Course


Planetary Protection Course: Course outline - Mars sample return

Day 1: Monday 18 July

  • Overview of planetary
  • Protection treaties, regulations, requirements (focus on MSR)
  • Basics of microbiology
  • Laboratory techniques and practices (including new procedures)
  • Practical laboratory session

Day 2: Tuesday 19 July

  • Bioburden control, including break-up / burn-up analysis
  • Probability of impact analysis
  • Statistics, data analysis & reporting
  • Implementation of requirements for Mars missions (focus on MSR)

Day 3: Wednesday 20 July

  • Review of laboratory results
  • Practical exercises
  • Lessons learnt from previous missions / studies (focus on MSR relevant topics)

Refreshments including lunch will be provided.

For more information and to book a place on the course please contact Gerhard Kminek at the European Space Agency.

What is it about?

ESA and NASA have worked together to develop this course on planetary protection policies and practices to familiarise current and future practitioners with ESA, NASA and COSPAR planetary protection programs. The course provides a comprehensive review of all applicable policies, practices and procedures necessary to implement planetary protection requirements successfully, emphasising integration of managerial, administrative, and laboratory aspects of planetary protection. Although the course will cover information relevant for any mission beyond Earth orbit, there will be a focus on Mars Sample Return (MSR) requirements and implementation measures covering aspects for technology developments for MSR systems and mission level studies. In addition, this course will introduce the new specifications for an extended dry heat bioburden reduction process, a hydrogen peroxide bioburden reduction process and a rapid spore assay process.

Who should take part and why?

This course is designed for managers, engineers, designers, lab technicians, and others interested in learning about the theory behind and application of planetary protection principles. Participants learn how the work of personnel with diverse skills and responsibilities is coordinated to develop an effective program of implementing planetary protection requirements. This course provides hands-on laboratory training in microbial sampling and data management. The course is taught by experts in the field with years of practical experience in all aspects of planetary protection.

ESA Centre at Harwell

This is the third annual planetary protection course hosted at the new ESA Centre at Harwell with support from RAL Space and the Research Complex at Harwell. Harwell is home to a vibrant and growing community of science and technology based innovation and enterprise including major national and international science projects and facilities. Over 4,500 people work on the campus in some 100 organisations, covering 260 hectares. The campus is also home to RAL Space, a department of 200 space scientists and technologists.


Lectures will be presented in the RAL Space conference rooms (CR12/13) at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory with two laboratory sessions hosted by the Research Complex at Harwell. RAL is also home to the UK's ESA Centre, International Space Innovation Centre, the Diamond Synchrotron, ISIS Spallation Neutron Sources, Vulcan Petawatt Laser, Medical Research Council and numerous fledgling science based businesses and spin-outs.


Harwell is within easy reach of Didcot Parkway station (15-20mins by taxi). Heathrow airport is approximately 1 hour from the lab by car or taxi (booked in advance transfers cost around £100).


Harwell is close to the towns of Didcot, Abingdon and Wantage. Course participants will be responsible for booking their own accommodation a list of suitable hotels is provided below. Transport will be provided from listed hotels in Abingdon to Harwell.

  1. Fallowfields House Hotel (10 rooms - Block booked)
    Please email Cris Bee for a room.
  2. Cosener's House (20 rooms)
    Please email Cosener's House for a room - and include that you are attending this course for our preferential rate
  3. The Upper Reaches (link opens in a new window) (31 rooms) 
  4. The Crown & T​histle (link opens in a new window) (19 rooms)

For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries