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While astronauts might dream of discovering unknown life one day in their future career, ESA's Planetary Protection Officer oversees activities that achieve it on a regular basis.

As part of the Agency's efforts to prevent microbial lifeforms hitching a ride on missions to other planets and moons in our Solar System, teams regularly scour cleanrooms and launch facilities, on the hunt for any microbial inhabitants.

The sites used to prepare certain types of space hardware are among the cleanest places on Earth, cleaner than a standard hospital operating theatre thanks to filtered air, application of rigorous cleanliness procedures and workers who - as they enter through air-showers into the bioburden-controlled cleanrooms - remain fully shrouded within 'bunny suits'.

"We have a long-term programme at ESA - and also NASA - to regularly monitor and evaluate biological contamination in cleanrooms and on certain type of spacecraft," explains Gerhard Kminek, ESA's Planetary Protection Officer.

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