Preliminary Planning for Mars Sample Return (MSR) Curation Activities in a Sample Receiving Facility

Tait, Kimberly T; McCubbin, Francis M.; Smith, Caroline L; Agee, Carl B.; Busemann, Henner; Cavalazzi, Barbara; Debaille, Vinciane; Hutzler, Aurore; Usui, Tomohiro; Kminek, Gerhard; Meyer, Michael A; Beaty, David W; Carrier, Brandi Lee; Haltigin, Timothy; Hays, Lindsay E; Cockell, Charles S.; Glavin, Daniel P.; Grady, Monica M.; Hauber, Ernst; Marty, Bernard; Pratt, Lisa M; Regberg, Aaron B.; Smith, Alvin L; Summons, Roger E.; Swindle, Timothy D; Tosca, Nicholas J.; Udry, Arya; Velbel, Michael A.; Wadhwa, Meenakshi; Westall, Frances and Zorzano, Maria-Paz (2021). Preliminary Planning for Mars Sample Return (MSR) Curation Activities in a Sample Receiving Facility. Astrobiology (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1089/ast.2021.0105

Abstract

The Mars Sample Return Planning Group 2 (MSPG2) was tasked with identifying the steps that encompass all the curation activities that would happen within the MSR Sample Receiving Facility (SRF) and any anticipated curation-related requirements. An area of specific interest is the necessary analytical instrumentation. The SRF would be a Biosafety Level-4 facility where the returned MSR flight hardware would be opened, the sample tubes accessed, and the martian sample material extracted from the tubes. Characterization of the essential attributes of each sample would be required to provide enough information to prepare a sample catalog used in guiding the preparation of sample-related proposals by the world’s research community and informing decisions by the sample allocation committee. The sample catalog would be populated with data and information generated during all phases of activity, including data derived concurrent with Mars 2020 sample-collecting rover activity, sample transport to Earth, and initial sample characterization within the SRF. We conclude that initial sample characterization can best be planned as a set of three sequential phases, which we have called Pre-Basic Characterization (Pre-BC), Basic Characterization (BC), and Preliminary Examination (PE), each of which requires a certain amount of instrumentation. Data on specific samples and subsamples obtained during sample safety assessments and time-sensitive scientific investigations would also be added to the catalog. There are several areas where future work would be beneficial to prepare for the receipt of samples, which would include the design of a sample tube isolation chamber and a strategy for opening the sample tubes and removing dust from the tube exteriors.

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