Saturday, December 5, 2009

How to Handle Mars Rocks

"How to Protect Mars Samples on Earth" (December 3, 2009)

"A returning spacecraft may someday hurtle through Earth's atmosphere bearing evidence of life from Mars. But scientists won't casually crack open the precious payload in any old laboratory. They will need a specially-designed building that not only protects the Martian samples from terrestrial contamination, but also prevents any Martian material or organisms from escaping into Earth's biosphere.

"Such a Mars sample return mission could signal a huge scientific coup for understanding the red planet's ability to harbor life, and so NASA launched the initial phases of a sample return mission in the late 1990s. Programmatic considerations, including technical and budgetary concerns, killed the mission planning early on, but the U.S. space agency continued to study what type of sample return facility (SRF) might become necessary for such a mission.

"Now NASA's Mars team has released the results of that study. Three architectural firms drew up plans for how humans and robots could handle extraterrestrial samples within special facilities...."

Handling the samples from Mars will be simpler than the sort of quarantine procedures during the Apollo missions. Mostly because this time there won't be human beings to take care of.

Actually, there may not be all that many humans involved in the containment facility. That depends on whether the people who think that robots can do the job best, or those who think humans are the best bet end up determining the design.

Considering what happened on Flight 188, relying on robots may not be such a bad idea, after all (October 23, 2009)

Discussions of how to handle samples that might have extraterrestrial bugs have been going on for some time. Back in the day, there wasn't much of an alternative to using animals as - guinea pigs. The article points out that medical technology may (or may not) be up to analyzing material from Mars without using animals.

Depending on how things go, we may have Martian rocks on Earth in the>Other posts, about "Mars, Mostly."

Related posts, at
Other posts, about "Mars, Mostly."

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