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Probabilistic models of planetary contamination

Abstract

Likely fundamental inadequacies in the model of planetary contamination advanced by Sagan and Coleman are discussed. It is shown that a relatively minor modification of the basic Sagan-Coleman formula yields approximations that are generally adequate with data in the range of interest. This approximation formula differs from the original Sagan-Coleman version only through an initial conditioning on landing outcome. It always yields an upper (conservative) bound for the total probability of contamination, this appealing feature is lost if the conditioning on landing outcome is deleted

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