Planetary Protection

Center of Excellence

Enabling scientific discovery and keeping Earth safe

Mission Overview

The mission of the JPL Planetary Protection Center of Excellence is to promote and sustain the infrastructure of planetary protection at JPL while supporting NASA missions. JPL fosters a culture of intra and inter collaboration to meet evolving mission requirements. Through our Planetary Protection Center of Excellence, we ensure our scientists and engineers are equipped with the state-of-the-art technology, remain effectively trained, lead mission-related Research & Technology Development projects, and leverage leading government and industry advancements, so that they can better fulfill multi-mission needs. Our vision reaches across several domain areas and ensures JPL's Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group (BPPG) has the right capabilities, people, tools, and expertise to offer the very best solutions to meet NASA’s needs and challenges.

JPL's BPPG has had a longstanding involvement in mission implementation, and more recently, space microbiology research and technology development. The team ensures that spacecraft meet stringent cleanliness requirements to prevent forward contamination (microbial contamination of the solar system by spacecraft that we launch from Earth) and backward contamination (extraterrestrial contamination of the Earth and Moon by way of sample return missions). In support of this implementation role, the BPP Group seeks to advance spacecraft cleanliness, sterilization, and validation technologies for NASA's solar system exploration missions.

We are
Planetary Protection

Current Expertise

Picture of Clay Wang (University of Southern California)

Clay Wang (University of Southern California), left, and Kasthuri Venkateswaran (JPL), right, will launch fungi into space and study the environmental impact on these fungi within the international space station.

  • Analytical Chemistry and Biochemistry

  • Bioinformatics

  • Biomedical Engineering

  • Biosensor Technology

  • Chemical Engineering

  • Classical and Molecular Microbial Taxonomy

  • Genetics

  • Metagenomics and Metabolomics

  • Microbial Archiving

  • Microbiology

  • Molecular Biology

  • Physics

  • Planetary Protection Implementation

  • Planetary Protection Research and Technology Development

  • Probability Analysis

  • Research Design

  • Space Instrument Engineering

  • Systems Engineering

Explore Planetary Protection

Mission Implementation

The BPP Group carefully samples spacecraft surfaces and performs microbiology tests to demonstrate compliance with requirements for biological cleanliness.

Current Research

A wide range of space microbiology research to advance spacecraft cleanliness, sterilization, and validation processes.

Technology Development

Development and standardization of more sensitive, accurate, rapid, and cost-effective technologies for spacecraft cleanliness and validation.


Four lab facilities support a wide range of mission implementation and research & technology development capabilities at JPL.


More than 15 scientists, engineers, and technicians, who are researchers and flight project implementation specialists.


Forthcoming Planetary Protection event details will be posted here.

CL#: 17-1953, 18-1585

Site Manager: Alvin Smith

Webmaster: James Ray

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