A Testbed for the Mars Returned Sample Handling Facility 2001-01-2412
Samples of Mars surface material will return to Earth in 2014. Prior to curation and distribution to the scientific community the returned samples will be isolated in a special facility until their biological safety has been assessed following protocols established by NASA’s Planetary Protection Office. The primary requirements for the pre-release handling of the Martian samples include protecting the samples from the Earth and protecting the Earth from the sample. A testbed will be established to support the design of such a facility and to test the planetary protection protocols. One design option that is being compared to the conventional Biological Safety Level 4 facility is a double walled differential pressure chamber with airlocks and automated equipment for analyzing samples and transferring them from one instrument to another.