User:Robertinventor/Back contamination concerns for a Mars sample return-more-refs

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This is a page for notes, source material and references that could be useful for the article: User:Robertinventor/Concerns for an early Mars sample return backup which is now deleted from wikipedia but some of its content may be reused.

The Human Exploration of Space, By Committee on Human Exploration, National Research Council, 1997

Raises points of interest for incubation period, but it is a bit out of date, 1997. Anything saying the same thing more recent?

Using the return flight as an incubation period and the crew as guinea pigs (as has been suggested) is not a solution to back contamination on human missions. Would the whole mission be risked if an unanticipated contamination occurred? How would the cause of the infection be known with enough certainty to justify destroying the returning spacecraft before it entered Earth's atmosphere? The whole spacecraft, not only the astronauts, would be contaminated. In addition infection might not be the only risk. A returning organism could possibly cause some long-term changes in our environment, perhaps remaining undetected for a while. Although such an event may be judged to have a very low probability, a convincing case that prudence has been exercised will have to be made to the public.

The scientific requirements relating to planteary protection and the assessment of the possibility of health-threatening microorganisms include:

1. How to detect the presence of indigenous microorganisms (potential pathogens) and their activities in samples returned to Earth prior to a human visit to Mars. A corollory is how to certify the biological safety of samples returned to Earth and of potential sites for human habitation. Simple culture experiments are insufficient because some organisms (e.g. the cholera-causing pathogen Vibrio cholerae) are not culturable using standard microbiological techniques. In fact, there is no unbiased assay to enable detection of even terrestrial microorganisms present at low concentrations.

Space Explora,on Via Telepresence: The Case for Synergy Between Science and Human Exploration, Findings and Observations from: “Exploration Telerobotics Symposium” May 2-3, 2012 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Sample Return

– Sample return to orbiting human sta.on for analysis or preparation to send back to Earth

On-orbit telerobotic sample recovery and return to the crewed orbitng facility for immediate analysis by resident astronauts (e.g. may enable rapid analysis of volatle bearing samples without requiring long-term cryogenic storage)

Taking a sample of biological significance may require very rapid encapsulation of the sample which benefits from low-latency teleoperation.


In the case of samples of biological

significance, very rapid encapsulation and recovery of the sample materials at the spacecraft in orbit are required and this is enabled by this approach. Most of the required technology already exists for terrestrial telerobotics exploration of Earth, although the TRL would have to be advanced and validated for operations on Mars.

It is entirely feasible that surface exploration of so-called Special Regions (on Mars) will require higher fidelity and more adaptable science activities that all but precludes human access at any time, and hence low-latency telerobotics may be a formal requirement to achieve science goals in such important locales. At such sites, LLT methods could include human orbiting or human operators on the surface at a safe standoff distance to allow appropriately prepared telerobots for access and exploration.

We believe that using telerobotics to extend human cognition can be highly advantageous in achieving Mars science priorities. This kind of human-robot partnership additionally offers opportunities for many future space destinations. The public appeal of such a mission scenario (humans to Mars orbit tele-operating robots on the Martian surface) will inspire the next generation of American scientists and engineers.