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This week’s event involves 17 space agencies, academics and representatives from the commercial space sector.

Organiser Prof Karen Olsson-Francis, of the Open University, said planetary protection was about the integrity of science.

“It ensures that we can address some of those most fundamental questions about how life evolved on Earth and if there’s any potential extant or extinct life elsewhere in the Solar System,” she said.

She added a lot could be learned from the conversations being had at the moment about the environmental issues faced on Earth.

“We need to act now to make sure we don’t cause any detrimental damage in space. This is an environmental issue,” she said.

Silvio Sinibaldi, the European Space Agency’s planetary protection officer, who will be attending the event, said we were “living in a new era for space”.

“Before, there were a few agencies running most of the missions, but now we have the private and commercial sector in the loop,” he said.

“It’s about adjusting the scenario to make sure we really promote sustainable space.

“There is no successful mission if we don’t consider cross-contamination.”

The International Planetary Protection Week is taking place from 22 to 26 April at the Royal Society in London and online.

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