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Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations MARS SAMPLE RETURN ISSUES AND RECOMMENDATIONS Task Group on Issues in Sample Return Space Studies Board Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1997
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Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Ave., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the task group responsible for the report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is interim president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and interim vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. Support for this project was provided by Contract NASW 4627 and Contract NASW 96013 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. International Standard Book Number 0-309-05733-7 Cover: This Viking Orbiter image, 200 kilometers across, shows water-worn, branching valley networks in the cratered uplands of Mars. These valleys are the main evidence for a warm wet climate on early Mars. (Photograph courtesy of NASA.) Copyright 1997 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Copies of this report are available from Space Studies Board National Research Council 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20418 Printed in the United States of America
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Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations TASK GROUP ON ISSUES IN SAMPLE RETURN KENNETH H. NEALSON, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Chair MICHAEL H. CARR, U.S. Geological Survey BENTON C. CLARK, Lockheed Martin Astronautics RUSSELL F. DOOLITTLE, University of California, San Diego BRUCE M. JAKOSKY, University of Colorado EDWARD L. KORWEK, Law Offices of Hogan & Hartson, L.L.P. NORMAN R. PACE, University of California, Berkeley JEANNE S. POINDEXTER, Barnard College/Columbia University MARGARET S. RACE, SETI Institute ANNA-LOUISE REYSENBACH, Rutgers University J. WILLIAM SCHOPF, University of California, Los Angeles TODD O. STEVENS, Pacific Northwest Laboratory PETER W. ROONEY, Study Director BARBARA L. JONES, Administrative Associate
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Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations SPACE STUDIES BOARD CLAUDE R. CANIZARES, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chair MARK R. ABBOTT, Oregon State University JOHN A. ARMSTRONG,* IBM Corporation (retired) JAMES P. BAGIAN, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency DANIEL N. BAKER, University of Colorado LAWRENCE BOGORAD, Harvard University DONALD E. BROWNLEE, University of Washington JOHN J. DONEGAN, John Donegan Associates, Inc. GERARD W. ELVERUM, JR., TRW ANTHONY W. ENGLAND, University of Michigan DANIEL J. FINK,* D.J. Fink and Associates, Inc. MARTIN E. GLICKSMAN, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute RONALD GREELEY, Arizona State University BILL GREEN, former member, U.S. House of Representatives NOEL W. HINNERS,* Lockheed Martin Astronautics ANDREW H. KNOLL, Harvard University JANET G. LUHMANN, University of California, Berkeley JOHN H. McELROY,* University of Texas, Arlington ROBERTA BALSTAD MILLER, CIESIN BERRIEN MOORE III, University of New Hampshire KENNETH H. NEALSON, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee MARY JANE OSBORN, University of Connecticut Health Center SIMON OSTRACH, Case Western Reserve University MORTON B. PANISH, AT&T Bell Laboratories (retired) CARLÉ M. PIETERS, Brown University MARCIA J. RIEKE, University of Arizona JOHN A. SIMPSON, Enrico Fermi Institute ROBERT E. WILLIAMS, Space Telescope Science Institute MARC S. ALLEN, Director * Former member
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Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations COMMISSION ON PHYSICAL SCIENCES, MATHEMATICS, AND APPLICATIONS ROBERT J. HERMANN, United Technologies Corporation, Co-chair W. CARL LINEBERGER, University of Colorado, Co-chair PETER M. BANKS, Environmental Research Institute of Michigan LAWRENCE D. BROWN, University of Pennsylvania RONALD G. DOUGLAS, Texas A&M University JOHN E. ESTES, University of California, Santa Barbara L. LOUIS HEGEDUS, Elf Atochem North America, Inc. JOHN E. HOPCROFT, Cornell University RHONDA J. HUGHES, Bryn Mawr College SHIRLEY A. JACKSON, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission KENNETH H. KELLER, University of Minnesota KENNETH I. KELLERMANN, National Radio Astronomy Observatory MARGARET G. KIVELSON, University of California, Los Angeles DANIEL KLEPPNER, Massachusetts Institute of Technology JOHN KREICK, Sanders, a Lockheed Martin Company MARSHA I. LESTER, University of Pennsylvania THOMAS A. PRINCE, California Institute of Technology NICHOLAS P. SAMIOS, Brookhaven National Laboratory L.E. SCRIVEN, University of Minnesota SHMUEL WINOGRAD, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center CHARLES A. ZRAKET, MITRE Corporation (retired) NORMAN METZGER, Executive Director
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Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations Preface There has long been great interest in returning samples from solar system bodies, especially Mars. The level of scientific and public interest increased measurably during the summer of 1996 with the announcement that a naturally conveyed sample, namely, a martian meteorite found on Earth, contained circumstantial evidence of possible prior life on Mars. Studies of the meteorite also support inferences from observations of surface features that Mars once had liquid water. Since terrestrial investigations of extreme environments now indicate that primitive life appears wherever liquid water and energy are present, the meteorite results reinforce the hypothesis that life emerged on Mars, whether or not the meteorite is shown to contain direct evidence of past life there. The present report, by the Task Group on Issues in Sample Return, addresses the question of how to ensure that any sample returned to Earth from elsewhere in the solar system has no adverse effects on our own biosphere. It complements an earlier Space Studies Board document that examined the related issue of how to keep the solar system bodies themselves clean of possible biological contamination by terrestrial spacecraft (Biological Contamination of Mars: Issues and Recommendations, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1992), and which provided the basis for a modification of the planetary protection requirements for Mars lander missions. Two NASA spacecraft are now on their way to Mars, beginning a new program to survey the planet and assess promising locations for sample collection. It seems likely that a sample return mission will be launched to Mars within a decade. Planning for such a mission should include consideration of the recommendations presented here. Claude R. Canizares, Chair Space Studies Board
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Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 1 INTRODUCTION 8 2 THE POSSIBILITY OF EXTANT LIFE ON MARS 10 3 THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MARTIAN METEORITES 17 4 THE POTENTIAL FOR LARGE-SCALE EFFECTS 19 5 SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATIONS THAT COULD REDUCE UNCERTAINTY 23 6 EVALUATION AND CHARACTERIZATION OF SAMPLES RETURNED FROM MARS 27 7 THE SAMPLE-RECEIVING FACILITY 30 8 PROGRAM OVERSIGHT 34 9 TECHNOLOGY ISSUES 37 REFERENCES 41 APPENDIX: LETTER OF REQUEST 45
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