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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2002. The Quarantine and Certification of Martian Samples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10138.
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The Quarantine and Certification of Martian Samples

Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration

Space Studies Board

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2002. The Quarantine and Certification of Martian Samples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10138.
×

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 committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

Support for this project was provided by Contracts NASW 96013 and NASW 01001 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsor.

Cover: Rock and soil samples collected on the surface of Mars begin their journey back to Earth in this artist’s impression. Courtesy of NASA/JPL.

International Standard Book Number 0-309-07571-8

Copies of this report are available free of charge from:

Space Studies Board

National Research Council

2101 Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20418

Copyright 2002 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2002. The Quarantine and Certification of Martian Samples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10138.
×

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

National Academy of Sciences

National Academy of Engineering

Institute of Medicine

National Research Council

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 M. 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. Wm. A. Wulf is 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 M. Alberts and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2002. The Quarantine and Certification of Martian Samples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10138.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2002. The Quarantine and Certification of Martian Samples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10138.
×

COMMITTEE ON PLANETARY AND LUNAR EXPLORATION

JOHN A. WOOD,

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,

Chair

WILLIAM V. BOYNTON,

University of Arizona

W. ROGER BUCK,

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

WENDY CALVIN,*

University of Nevada, Reno

JAMES P. FERRIS,*

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

JOHN M. HAYES,

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

PETER B. JAHRLING,*

U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

KAREN J. MEECH,

University of Hawaii

MICHAEL MENDILLO,*

Boston University

JOHN F. MUSTARD,

Brown University

ANDREW F. NAGY,

University of Michigan

KEITH S. NOLL,

Space Telescope Science Institute

DAVID A. PAIGE,*

University of California, Los Angeles

ROBERT T. PAPPALARDO,

University of Colorado

J. WILLIAM SCHOPF,

University of California, Los Angeles

EVERETT SHOCK,*

Washington University

ANN L. SPRAGUE,

University of Arizona

Staff

DAVID H. SMITH, Study Director

SHARON S. SEAWARD, Senior Program Assistant

*  

Former member.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2002. The Quarantine and Certification of Martian Samples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10138.
×

SPACE STUDIES BOARD

JOHN H. McELROY,

University of Texas at Arlington (retired),

Chair

ROGER P. ANGEL,

University of Arizona

JAMES P. BAGIAN,

Veterans Health Administration’s National Center for Patient Safety

JAMES L. BURCH,

Southwest Research Institute

RADFORD BYERLY, JR.,

Boulder, Colorado

ROBERT E. CLELAND,

University of Washington

HOWARD M. EINSPAHR,

Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute

STEVEN H. FLAJSER,

Loral Space and Communications Ltd.

MICHAEL H. FREILICH,

Oregon State University

DON P. GIDDENS,

Georgia Institute of Technology/Emory University

RALPH H. JACOBSON,

The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory (retired)

CONWAY LEOVY,

University of Washington

JONATHAN I. LUNINE,

University of Arizona

BRUCE D. MARCUS,

TRW, Inc. (retired)

RICHARD A. McCRAY,

University of Colorado

HARRY Y. McSWEEN, JR.,

University of Tennessee

GARY J. OLSEN,

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

GEORGE A. PAULIKAS,

The Aerospace Corporation (retired)

ROBERT ROSNER,

University of Chicago

ROBERT J. SERAFIN,

National Center for Atmospheric Research

EUGENE B. SKOLNIKOFF,

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MITCHELL SOGIN,

Marine Biological Laboratory

C. MEGAN URRY,

Yale University

PETER VOORHEES,

Northwestern University

JOHN A. WOOD,

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

JOSEPH K. ALEXANDER, Director

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2002. The Quarantine and Certification of Martian Samples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10138.
×

Preface

One of the highest-priority activities in the planetary sciences identified in published reports of the Space Studies Board’s Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX) and in reports of other advisory groups is the collection and return of extraterrestrial samples to Earth for study in terrestrial laboratories. In response to recommendations made in such studies, NASA has initiated a vigorous program that will, within the next decade, collect samples from a variety of solar system environments. In particular the Mars Exploration Program is expected to launch spacecraft that are designed to collect samples of martian soil, rocks, and atmosphere and return them to Earth, perhaps as early as 2015.

International treaty obligations mandate that NASA conduct such a program in a manner that avoids the cross-contamination of both Earth and Mars. The Space Studies Board’s 1997 report Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations examined many of the planetary-protection issues concerning the back contamination of Earth and concluded that, although the probability that martian samples will contain dangerous biota is small, it is not zero.1 Steps must be taken to protect Earth against the remote possibility of contamination by life forms that may have evolved on Mars. Similarly, the samples, collected at great expense, must be protected against contamination by terrestrial biota and other matter. Almost certainly, meeting these requirements will entail opening the sample-return container in an appropriate facility on Earth—presumably a BSL-4 laboratory—where testing, biosafety certification, and quarantine of the samples will be carried out before aliquots are released to the scientific community for study in existing laboratory facilities. (BSL-4 is the most stringent level of biological containment defined; see Chapter 6.)

The 1997 report contains useful, but brief, observations about the nature and staffing of a “sample-receiving, containment, and research facility.” The report concludes that “no facility meeting all the requirements currently exists” (p. 31). Although NASA’s Ames Research Center and Johnson Spaceflight Center have staff with some of the requisite experience in biology, geochemistry, and sample curation, they lack experience in, and do not have facilities to maintain, high-level biological containment. The report notes that other organizations, such as the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have expertise in biological containment, but they lack expertise in “the biology of nonpathogenic microbes,

1  

Space Studies Board, National Research Council. 1997. Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2002. The Quarantine and Certification of Martian Samples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10138.
×

microbial paleontology, and the relevant aspects of geology and geochemistry” (p. 31). Moreover, these containment facilities are not designed to protect against terrestrial contamination.

Given the high priority attached to Mars sample return missions by NASA and the scientific community, and the 1997 report’s recommendation that the sample-receiving facility should be operational at least 2 years before the sample return mission is launched, further concrete planning is urgently needed. This planning should build on the recommendations contained in the 1997 report and the preliminary efforts undertaken by NASA (in particular, the 1997 Quarantine Protocol Workshop2 and the report of the Mars Sample Handling and Requirements Panel3).

The nature of the required quarantine facility, and the decisions required for disposition of samples once they are in it, were regarded as issues of sufficient importance and complexity to warrant a study by the Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX) in isolation from other topics. (Previous studies have been much broader, including also consideration of the mission that collects samples on Mars and brings them to Earth, atmospheric entry, sample recovery, and transport to the quarantine facility.) The charge to COMPLEX stated that the central question to be addressed in this study is the following:

  • What are the criteria that must be satisfied before martian samples can be released from a quarantine facility?

In addressing this central question, a number of closely related issues were to be considered:

  • What are the optimal techniques for isolating and handling martian materials, determining their content of biota (if any), and carrying out basic geochemical characterization studies in the facility?

  • How much capability for scientific analysis, beyond that required for biosafety certification, should be incorporated into the facility, and what principles should govern the utilization of this scientific capability?

  • To what extent can valuable lessons be learned from the experience with the Apollo lunar samples and from recent developments in the biotechnology and biomedical communities?

This project was formally initiated at COMPLEX’s March 31 to April 2, 1999, meeting in Boulder, Colorado, with a series of presentations describing the scientific and technical aspects of Mars sample-return missions, planetary protection issues, and the work of NASA’s Mars Sample Handling and Requirements Panel. Work continued at the July 26-28, 1999, meeting in Washington, D.C., with a series of presentations relating to biological containment facilities, the physical and biological effects of gamma-ray sterilization, and personal perspectives on quarantine and curation issues. Data gathering relating to this study concluded at the November 1-5, 1999, meeting in Irvine, California, with a series of presentations related to biomarkers and life-detection techniques.

A full draft of this report was completed in February 2000. The text was reviewed by the Space Studies Board in March 2000, sent to external reviewers in October 2000, and revised during the period from December 2000 to March 2001. An unedited prepublication text was released on May 29, 2001. That text is superseded by this final published report.

Although many COMPLEX members worked on this report, the bulk of the task of assembling their many individual contributions was performed by John Wood with the assistance of William Boynton, John Hayes, Peter Jahrling, William Schopf, and Everett Shock. Important contributions were also made by Anna-Louise Reysenbach and by Space Studies Board members Gary Olsen and Mitchell Sogin.

The work of the writing team was made easier thanks to the efforts of Carl Agee (Johnson Space Center), Carlton Allen (Lockheed Martin), Jeffrey Bada (University of California, San Diego), John Battista (Louisiana State University), Donald Bogard (Johnson Space Center), Michael Carr (U.S. Geological Survey), Andrew Chess

2  

NASA. 1999. Mars Sample Quarantine Protocol Workshop Report, D.L. DeVincenzi, J. Bagby, M. Race, and J. Rummel, eds. NASA/CP-1999-208772.

3  

NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 1999. Mars Sample Handling and Requirements Panel (MSHARP) Final Report. NASA/TM-1999-209145.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2002. The Quarantine and Certification of Martian Samples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10138.
×

(Whitehead Institute and Massachusetts Institute of Technology), John Cronin (Arizona State University), Michael Daly (Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences), Donald DeVincenzi (Ames Research Center), Martin Favero (Johnson and Johnson), Steven Fontaine (MDS Nordion), Everett Gibson, Jr. (Johnson Space Center), Bill Green (Space Studies Board), John Kerridge (University of California, San Diego), Joseph Macquaker (Manchester University, U.K.), Philippe Masson (University of Paris Sud), Michael Moldowan (Stanford University), Kenneth Nealson (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), Dimitri Papanastassiou (California Institute of Technology and Jet Propulsion Laboratory), C.J. Peters (National Center for Infectious Diseases), Margaret Race (SETI Institute), Jonathan Richmond (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), John D. Rummel (NASA Headquarters), Bernd Simoneit (Oregon State University), Steven Squyres (Cornell University), and Robert Walker (Washington University).

This report has been reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The contents of the review comments and draft manuscripts remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. COMPLEX thanks the following individuals for their review of this report: John Bagby (Colorado State University, retired), Michael H. Carr (U.S. Geological Survey), Benton C. Clark (Lockheed Martin Astronautics), George W. Clark (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Jack Farmer (Arizona State University), Edward L. Korwek (Hogan & Hartson, LLP), and James Henry Scott (Carnegie Institution of Washington).

Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Wesley T. Huntress, Jr., Carnegie Institution of Washington. Appointed by the National Research Council, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests solely with the authoring committee and the institution.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 2002. The Quarantine and Certification of Martian Samples. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10138.
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One of the highest-priority activities in the planetary sciences identified in published reports of the Space Studies Board's Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX) and in reports of other advisory groups is the collection and return of extraterrestrial samples to Earth for study in terrestrial laboratories. In response to recommendations made in such studies, NASA has initiated a vigorous program that will, within the next decade, collect samples from a variety of solar system environments. In particular the Mars Exploration Program is expected to launch spacecraft that are designed to collect samples of martian soil, rocks, and atmosphere and return them to Earth, perhaps as early as 2015.

International treaty obligations mandate that NASA conduct such a program in a manner that avoids the cross-contamination of both Earth and Mars. The Space Studies Board's 1997 report Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations examined many of the planetary-protection issues concerning the back contamination of Earth and concluded that, although the probability that martian samples will contain dangerous biota is small, it is not zero.1 Steps must be taken to protect Earth against the remote possibility of contamination by life forms that may have evolved on Mars. Similarly, the samples, collected at great expense, must be protected against contamination by terrestrial biota and other matter. Almost certainly, meeting these requirements will entail opening the sample-return container in an appropriate facility on Earth-presumably a BSL-4 laboratory-where testing, biosafety certification, and quarantine of the samples will be carried out before aliquots are released to the scientific community for study in existing laboratory facilities. The nature of the required quarantine facility, and the decisions required for disposition of samples once they are in it, were regarded as issues of sufficient importance and complexity to warrant a study by the Committee on Planetary and Lunar Exploration (COMPLEX) in isolation from other topics. (Previous studies have been much broader, including also consideration of the mission that collects samples on Mars and brings them to Earth, atmospheric entry, sample recovery, and transport to the quarantine facility.) The charge to COMPLEX stated that the central question to be addressed in this study is the following: What are the criteria that must be satisfied before martian samples can be released from a quarantine facility?

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