Mars Sample Return and the Double Walled Isolator
Speaker: John Holt (Space Research Centre, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester)
Title: Mars Sample Return and the Double Walled Isolator
Abstract: The successful landing of NASA’s Perseverance rover at Jezero crater signals the principal milestone of a major, multi-agency effort to return the first samples from Mars. From July, it is expected that the rover will complete an initial geological documentation of a site of scientific interest and cache its first sample, ready for collection in the mid 2020’s. Sample #1 will not be observed again until the tube contents are characterised in a terrestrial, high containment, Sample Receiving Facility (SRF). In many respects, the 18th Feb (Perseverance landing) started a clock ticking where delay of subsequent mission components (ESA fetch rover and return spacecraft) significantly increases the risk of overall mission failure. From a mission programme perspective, the success of the rover places SRF development on a critical path where the earliest operational date, with returned samples, is 2029. Additional to the SRF, a parallel ground segment programme must deliver the necessary enabling technology (isolators, manipulators and analytical instrumentation) such that the precious samples are handled in a way that protects both their scientific integrity and that of our terrestrial biosphere, in the unlikely event that a returned sample is hazardous. A Double Walled Isolator (DWI) has been proposed as a likely technology to address many of these concerns. This presentation reports the status of the European Space Agency DWI and possible future developments.
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