Planning for Mars Sample Return: Design and Implementation Considerations for Handling and Testing Returned Samples 2003-01-2672
To avoid harmful contamination from any life forms that might be included in returned martian samples, NASA has developed a draft protocol outlining a proof-of-concept method for handling and testing martian materials. Designed to use minute amounts of sample material in a specially designed receiving laboratory, the draft protocol includes a comprehensive list of physical/chemical tests, life detection analyses and biohazards assays, as well as guidelines for containment, cleanliness, and sterilization. The draft protocol is intended to guide the eventual development of a final protocol and provide preliminary input for the design of facilities and equipment required to accomplish the comprehensive testing. This paper summarizes the draft protocol and the design, implementation and scientific challenges ahead.