How NASA Planetary Protection Works

Author's Note

Do a little research on planetary protection, and you're going to encounter Michael Crichton's "The Andromeda Strain." But if you want a campier take on the subject, pick up (or download) the 1982 flick "Creepshow." In it, there's a story called "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill," which stars Stephen King in the eponymous role. Jordy is a farmer who finds a meteorite and thinks it's his golden ticket. Unfortunately, the meteorite carries alien spores that turn the poor guy into a walking weed. It's not a happy ending, but it's an interesting take on planetary protection.

Related Articles


  • COSPAR Planetary Protection Policy. Oct. 20, 2002, amended Mar. 24, 2011.
  • Hurst, William C. and A. Estes Reynolds. "Food, Hands and Bacteria." University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. Mar. 19, 2010. (Feb. 20, 2012)
  • Irion, Robert. "Did Life on Earth Come from Mars." Discover Magazine. Aug. 1, 2001. (Feb. 20, 2012)
  • Jha, Alok. "Martian meteorite contains pockets of the red planet's atmosphere." The Guardian. Feb. 8, 2012. (Feb. 20, 2012)
  • Koerner, Brendan. "Your Planetary Protection Officer." Slate. Apr. 20, 2004. (Feb. 20, 2012)
  • Lemonick, Michael D. "Alien Life Discovered in a Meteorite! Or Maybe Not." Time. Mar. 7, 2011. (Feb. 20, 2012),8599,2057461,00.html
  • Meltzer, Michael. "When Biospheres Collide: A History of NASA's Planetary Protection Programs." NASA. 2011.
  • NASA Office of Planetary Protection Web site. (Feb. 20, 2012)
  • USS Hornet. "Apollo 11 & 12 Recovery." (Feb. 20, 2012)
  • Weed, William Speed. "Are We Ready for Alien Bugs?" Discover Magazine. March 1, 2003. (Feb. 20, 2012)