NASA Webinar

NASA Webinar



How NASA is managing the risk associated with solar system exploration to ensure planetary protection



Learning and understanding how other industries perceive, measure and monitor risk is crucial. In the era of new technologies and strategic approaches, sharing best practices across industries to ensure resiliency has never been so important.

Gain exclusive insight into how NASA is managing contamination risk during solar system exploration and preventing the contamination of Earth from extraterrestrial sample return.

  • The Planetary Protection Officers role: allow science to take place while keeping risk below the acceptable level

  • The ‘onion’ model – how it evolved from the earlier model (overall risk)

  • Risk classification by target – by planet, and at zone level

  • Setting acceptable levels of risk: who does it and how. Setting acceptable limits of bioburden density etc – and characterising JPL biome for comparison

  • What inputs are there to assess the risk involved in each process?  

  • Who’s involved in the risk management process?

  • How has the process changed since Apollo and before?

  • PPO’s role in past mission decisions – Mars Curiosity rover mission architecture changes, considerations for human exploration limits

  • Lessons for financial risk management: risk vs return; who cross-checks the risk calculation; overall risk appetite vs appetite for risk at each stage of the mission.

Elaine Seasly, D.Eng.

Deputy planetary protection officer


Dr Elaine Seasly is the Deputy Planetary Protection Officer for NASA, which is to say she is a real-life Guardian of the Galaxy. Her focus is to ensure spacecraft is clean enough to visit other worlds when searching for life or signs of past life, and any material samples brought back from visits to other worlds do not pose a risk to life on Earth.

She began her career in contamination control at Raytheon Missile Systems and later transitioned to NASA to lead the Contamination Control and Planetary Protection efforts at NASA Langley Research Center.

Currently, at NASA Headquarters, she brings the systems engineering perspective to the Office of Planetary Protection. She is a proud engineering nerd, with a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering, a Master’s in Patent Law, and a Doctor of Engineering degree.

Alexander Campbell

divisional content editor

Alexander Campbell is the divisional content editor for He was formerly the editor of Operational Risk & Regulation and news editor of Risk magazine. He is based in London.

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