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Planetary Protection: the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN orbiter (MAVEN)

As NASA pursues the search for life in the solar system, the cleanliness of robotic explorers is crucial to avoid contaminating other worlds. Contaminants from Earth could inadvertently kill life forms on other planets just as we discover that they exist.  The MAVEN probe will be carrying no more than 500,000 spores of microbial life, so few they could fit on the head of a pin.

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