It's really just a summary piece, not a new development, but with new developments in the search for life on Mars, it's worth thinking about.
Don't muck around in the affairs of planets that are less technologically advanced than yours. Despite how often it gets ignored, Star Trek's Prime Directive is a pretty nice attempt to take a universe brimming with life and figure out how to interact with it in an ethical way.
Unfortunately, the Prime Directive isn't terribly nuanced.
How do we relate to alien life that's as, or more, advanced than us? What if alien life is bacteriaâ€"do we still have to leave its home planet alone? How do we explore the galaxy without spreadingâ€"or picking upâ€"any deadly diseases? The Prime Directive can't really help you here. That's why scientists from NASA and the SETI Institute are boldly going where no bureaucracies (real or fictional) have gone beforeâ€"drawing up the safety protocols we Earthlings will use as we explore new worlds, and the social and ethical guidelines we'll turn to if we ever do find life on other planets.
It's all part of NASA's Office of Planetary Protection. Home of the Planetary Protection Officer, surely the most awesome job title in the sciences, the OPP has been around since 1967, before the Apollo landings on the Moon and the concept has been around since before NASA was even founded.