Martian Spring

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Mars has captured humanity’s imagination since prehistory - and now it may be in our grasp.


Mars has captured humanity’s imagination since prehistory - and now it may be in our grasp. Notions of human exploration and settlement are being taken more seriously than ever. Taking the next giant leap forward starts with small steps here on Earth. We intend to take an active role in enabling these steps. There are countless paths to reaching Mars.

Some near term goals are as follows:
- Raise the technological readiness levels (TRL) of Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) technologies
- Investigate potential of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) and closed/regenerative ECLSS technologies
- Determine fundamental engineering requirements and implementation strategies for exploration and settlement
- Determine quality-of-life requirements and implementation strategies for exploration and settlement


This paper presents a global overview of current, planned and proposed sample missions. At present, missions are in progress to return samples from asteroids, comets and the interstellar medium. More missions are planned to Mars and the asteroids. Future sample return missions include more targets including Europa, Mercury and Venus. This review identifies the] need for developing a coordinated international system for the handling and safety certification of returned samples. Such a system will provide added assurance to the public that all the participants in this new exploration arena have thought through the technical challenges and reached agreement on how to proceed. All these future returned sample missions hold relevance to the NASA Astrobiology program because of the potential to shed light on the origins of life, or even to return samples of biological interest. The possibility that samples returned from other bodies to the Earth may contain biotic material or living organisms raises many considerations for preventing forward contamination of the samples and back contamination of the Earth and its biosphere. Multiple space-faring nations propose to conduct sample return missions, and the issue is whether they will adhere to comparable standards for sample handling and biocontainment. The restrictions on such a sample return are quite stringent and require further research and development to make possible the safe receiving and handling of extraterrestrial samples Cohen, Marc M. (2003 July). Global Overview: Returned Astrobiology Sample Mission Architectures (SAE 2003-01-2675). 33rd International Conference on Environmental Systems (ICES), Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 7-10 July 2003. Warrendale, Pennsylvania, USA: Society of Automotive Engineers
NASA must hold samples returned from Mars in quarantine until the Sample Science Team determines their biological character and safety. A significant challenge, unique to NASAís needs, is how to contain the samples (to protect the biosphere) while simultaneously protecting their pristine nature for scientific studies. This paper presents an analysis of several mission architecture considerations for receiving, handling and analyzing these samples, known as Mars Returned Sample Handling (MRSH). The criteria in this design analysis include: location and types of facilities, transportation of samples or the Earth return vehicle, modes of manipulation; capability for destructive as well as non-destructive testing, avoidance of cross-contamination, sample storage, and retrieval within a closed system.

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