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Grants to USA Investigators for Research to Prevent the Contamination of the Earth's Terrestrial Systems

Planetary Protection Research


GrantWatch ID#

Funding Source
CFDA Number: 43.001
Funding or PIN Number: NNH23ZDA001N-PPR
Array ( [0] => American Samoa (USA); [1] => Guam (USA); [2] => Puerto Rico (USA); [3] => Virgin Islands (USA); [4] => Northern Mariana Islands (USA); )

Geographic Focus
USA Territories: American Samoa (USA);   Guam (USA);   Puerto Rico (USA);   Virgin Islands (USA);   Northern Mariana Islands (USA);
International, Israel and Canada.

Important Dates
LOI Date: 06/21/23
Deadline: 07/20/23 11:59 PM Eastern Time Save

Grant Description
Grants to USA and territories investigators for research to prevent the contamination of the Earth's terrestrial systems. Applicants are advised that required registrations must be completed and an NOI submitted prior to applying. Funding is intended for research to understand and limit contamination of specific Solar System bodies and stringently protect Earth from possible life forms that could be returned from specific Solar System bodies considered to be habitable.

Numerous areas of research in astrobiology/exobiology are improving an understanding of the potential for survival of Earth microbes in extraterrestrial environments, relevant to preventing contamination of other bodies by Earth organisms carried on spacecraft. As extraterrestrial samples are continued to be brought back to the Earth system for advanced research and analysis, there is an urgent need to understand and prevent biological contamination of the terrestrial environment. Mission-enabling and capability-driven research is required to improve NASA’s understanding of the potential for both forward and backward contamination; and improve methods and technologies for accurate, efficient, and effective minimization of biological contamination for outbound spacecraft and return samples.

The Planetary Protection Research (PPR) program solicits research in the following areas (in order of programmatic priority):

  • Model or experimentally measure planetary environmental conditions and transport processes that could permit mobilization of spacecraft-associated contaminants to locations in which Earth organisms might thrive. Of particular interest are the subsurface environments of icy bodies, such as Europa and Enceladus, and Mars Special Regions.
  • Develop or adapt modern molecular analytical methods to rapidly detect, classify, and/or enumerate Earth microbes carried by spacecraft (on surfaces and/or in bulk materials, especially at low densities) before, during, and after assembly and launch processing. Of particular interest are methods capable of identifying and verifying the functionality of microbes with high potential for surviving spacecraft flight or planetary environmental conditions (e.g., anaerobes, psychrophiles, radiation-resistant organisms), methods that can validate and support biological modeling as it relates to biological contamination of spacecraft, and comparison to current NASA planetary protection standard assay techniques.
  • Model to understand and predict biological and organic contamination sourcing, transport, survival, and burden level of spacecraft, for both forward and backward contamination. Of particular interest are mission-enabling models that support mission designers, project managers, and life-detecting science teams in the early stages of the mission lifecycle.
  • Model or experimentally measure space environmental conditions and spacecraft designs that could permit a decrease in biological contamination of spacecraft during the journey (e.g. bioburden credits) to the target destination with emphasis on reduction of organisms currently surviving under cleanroom conditions. Of particular interest is the radiation environment of deep space and the combined effects of multiple simultaneous stressors, such as a combination of space vacuum and radiation stressors.
  • Identify and provide proof-of-concept on new or improved methods, designs, technologies, techniques, and procedures to support planetary protection requirements for outbound and return sample missions. Of particular interest are improvements to spacecraft cleaning and sterilization that remain compatible with spacecraft materials and assemblies, prevention of re-contamination and cross contamination throughout the spacecraft lifecycle, and expansion of materials and commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware with compatibility to current cleaning and sterilization techniques. This would include work to advance in situ bioburden reduction and appropriate validation methods.
  • Experimentally measure reduction in viability of hardy terrestrial organisms, including viruses, exposed to high temperatures (e.g. 200 to 500 degrees centigrade) for short periods of time (e.g. seconds to minutes). Of particular interest are mission enabling time/temperature experiments with greater than 7 decimal reductions in viability.
  • Characterize the limits of life in laboratory simulations of relevant planetary environments or in appropriate Earth analogs. Of particular interest are studies on the potential and dynamics of organism and bio-molecule survival and reproduction in conditions present on the surface or subsurface of Mars (e.g., gullies and ice-rich environments), or on Europa and other icy satellites – potentially in the presence of a heat source brought from Earth.


Additional Eligibility Criteria
Unless otherwise restricted by a particular program element, organizations of every type, domestic and foreign, Government and private, for-profit, and not-for-profit, may submit proposals without restriction on teaming arrangements, other than with China, see subsection (c). See:

Pre-Application Information
- NOI or Step-1 Due Date: 06/21/2023
- (Step-2) Proposal Due Date: 07/20/2023

Unless stated otherwise in the program element, the proposal deadline is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time and must be submitted electronically using either NSPIRES or

NOIs may be submitted via NSPIRES directly by the PI by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on the due date given in Tables 2 and 3 of this NRA; no action by an organization’s AOR is required to submit an NOI.

Electronic proposal submission is required; no hard copy is required or permitted.

Every organization that intends to submit a proposal to NASA in response to this NRA, including educational institutions, industry, not-for-profit institutions, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA Centers, and other U.S. Government agencies, must be registered in NSPIRES. This applies equally for proposals submitted via Every organization that intends to submit a proposal through must also be registered in, as well as in NSPIRES. Registration for either proposal data system must be performed by an organization's electronic business point-of-contact in the System for Award Management ( Applicants must maintain an active SAM registration, with current information loaded, at all times while competing for a federal award, and, if applicable, during the period of performance of the award.

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Additional Funding Information

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants
Number of new awards pending adequate proposals of merit ~ 7

Term of Contract
Typical proposals to PPR seek three years of funding or fewer. Periods of performance from one to four years may be proposed, as appropriate, to the nature of the contemplated research.

Planning date for start of investigation ~6 months after proposal due date.

Contact Information
Web site for submission of NOI and proposals via NSPIRES (help desk available at or (202) 479-9376). help desk available at or (800) 518-4726

Point of contact concerning this program:
Becky McCauley Rench
Planetary Science Division
Science Mission Directorate
NASA Headquarters
Washington, DC 20546-0001
Telephone: (202) 213-7815

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