August 12, 2021

Planetary Protection Contingency Support

Group Lead: K. Jeffrey Myers MD FACEP

We are an exploratory/advisory group seeking to determine preparations and planning of potential use in the mitigation of disaster contingencies associated with the aftermath of asteroid impacts. We will work toward developing an information resource for established disaster response teams also utilizing the inputs, contacts and established communication with agencies such as the CDC/WHO, FEMA, NASA, and the FAA. Contingencies arising from planetary extraterrestrial microbiological or toxicologic contamination of earth (including contagions from return of samples and astronauts - or other means), are very unlikely, but the maintenance of the current level of routine infectious disease preparations/precautions in emergency facilities is reasonable mitigation against future risk.


  1. Provide advisory support to ACEP members and other interested/involved parties in the planning, preparation, and execution phases of potential planetary protection contingencies.
  2. Provide educational outreach in support and promotion of the concept of Planetary Protection and its associated and/or coordinating agencies.
  3. Help establish and support communication between the various agencies and/or groups involved in the preparation and management of potential planetary protection contingencies and the ACEP members/and other interested groups responding to and/or preparing for both routine events and potential disasters.

Types of Planetary Protection Contingencies

  1. Asteroid/meteoroid/space debris
    This would potentially involve preparations to mitigate the effects of energy of impact including overpressure shock waves, vaporizing heat, expelled debris/projectiles, atmospheric/respiratory effects, and coastal tsunamis as well as secondary fires/explosions, and disrupted infrastructure.
  2. Contamination from extraterrestrial microbial and/or toxicologic  organisms/agents
    Note that this has been determined to represent an exceedingly low probability risk event. This would deal with preparations to mitigate and/or prevent microbiological and/or toxicologic contaminant effects from samples/spacecraft and/or explorers returning to earth from extraterrestrial locations (beyond earth orbit). This preparation is already being coordinated and directed by NASA in conjunction with the CDC, including planning interactions with emergency medicine authorities locally at sample recovery and processing locations. No additional preparations beyond the current routine emergency facility precautions already in place are anticipated to be necessary at other locations.

Interactive Agencies/Groups With Anticipated Interest and Involvement

  • NASA Planetary Protection Office (Planetary Protection Officer – James Benardini PhD)
  • NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office – Lindley Johnson, PhD (Asteroid Impact Mitigation)
  • FEMA (contact TBD)
  • CDC (contact TBD)
  • FAA (Federal Air Surgeon - Susan Northrup, MD)
  • ACEP Disaster Response Groups (and other groups such as state DMATs)
  • AsMA (Aerospace Medical Association) – (Education committee)
  • Ft. Detrick – US Army Research Center (contact TBD)


It is expected that support will depend upon individual participant and coordinating agency resource limitations and will not necessarily include physical deployment of group members. Rather, this is primarily an effort to help established disaster teams/groups prepare for and educate themselves for planetary protection contingencies, but may also include best effort on site consultation when requested and deemed appropriate either during planning or real-time events.

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