Re: Planetary Protection Programme
Nope, sorry that's not right. I've worked on a Mars mission, so you can actually take this as relatively authorative. The problem with going to areas containing a high probabilities of life are that your cleanliness requirements are massive.
To give you an example. InSight (the mission I worked on, flies in 2018) is going to Mars, but not a particularly life friendly region. Just a a standard region. Our requirement was a maximum spore count of 10,000 spores per square metre. To put that in context, your finger tip holds a couple of million to a hundred million spores. So in other words we needed to be SUPER clean! So we are talking high level clean rooms, bunny suits, double gloving, multiple cleaning stages, the whole shebang.
We were also limited to only going 5m deep. The reason for that is, that under 5m is such an unknown area, going there would have bumped us into the high probability of life category (probably not because it has a high probability of life, but because no one has a clue what's down there and no one wants to take the chance of contaminating it, just in case). The requirements would have then been so restrictive we never would have got the mission off the ground. I forget the exact figure but you're then talking about spore counts in the single digits per square metre. Someone sneezing in the next room is enough to contaminate your spacecraft. To go in those areas you need the mission to be planned and dedicated to it at the start and be prepared for some pretty high costs!
The reason we do our best not to contaminate other planets, is purely for Science. We do not want to ruin the scientific discoveries of the next mission that goes travelling past our mission...