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4 Quarantine Strategy
Pages 33-38

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From page 33...
... Testing should proceed from the largest sample category, of which the smallest fraction of material needs to be devoted to life detection, to the smallest category; if results are consistently negative for the larger sample categories, justification may be found for reducing the amounts of the smaller sample categories used for life detection. TRIAGE FOR THE MARS SAMPLES The first step in searching for evidence of biological activity in each category of martian material should be analysis for its content of organic carbon (Chapter 2~.
From page 34...
... The unequivocal discovery of life in Mars samples would demand a far larger research effort than could be carried out by the quarantine personnel projected in Chapter 6, in a much more elaborately constructed physical facility than the kind that chapter recommends. COMPLEX has little doubt that funding would be made available for such a facility and such an effort, to study life on Mars.
From page 35...
... The samples returned from Mars may be shown to contain small amounts of organic matter and/or evidence suggestive of viable or recently dead microbial life. Given the difficulties inherent in achieving and maintaining a stringently sterile and organically clean environment, such evidence of biological activity might represent terrestrial contamination, introduced during sample collection and/or processing.
From page 36...
... In the likely event that initial examination of the Mars samples can neither prove nor definitively rule out evidence of life in them, plans should be in place to promptly sterilize aliquots of the samples and remove them from the Mars Quarantine Facility for biological and geochemical studies in specialized laboratories elsewhere. This action should not be deferred pending resolution of the question of whether the samples contain life or artifacts of life.
From page 37...
... These studies can test for terrestrial contamination, differentiate between abiotic and biotic signatures in sets of compounds, search for biomarkers, and provide feedback to life detection experiments. In addition, isotopic studies of bulk extracts, as well as individual organic compounds, will provide evidence to test whether the organic compounds are indigenous and whether they contain evidence of possible biological isotopic fractionation.
From page 38...
... Here "approved containment facilities elsewhere" refers principally to the case where a major international partner in the Mars sample return program wishes to establish an independent BSL-4 facility in which to study untreated samples (see Chapter 6~. · If the samples are shown to be altogether barren of organic matter, to contain no detectable organic carbon compounds and no other evidence of past or present biological activity, untreated aliquots of the samples should be released for study beyond the confines of the Mars Quarantine Facility.

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