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The EURO-CARES project and the WP5

The return of extraterrestrial samples brought to Earth from different bodies in the Solar System (Mars, planetary satellites, asteroids, the Moon), either by unmanned and/or by manned missions will require specific storage conditions and handling procedures. An important aspect of a storage an curation facility will be analogue samples. For practical reasons and sterility concerns it might be necessary for such a facility to have its own collection of analogue samples. Within the EURO-CARES project (European Curation of Astromaterials Returned from Exploration of Space) that is aimed at creating a curation and analytical facility dedicated to extraterrestrial samples, the Scientific team of the Work Package 5 (WP5) addresses objectives related to analogue samples. These include:
1) to evaluate specific storage conditions and handling procedures during curation and analysis of extraterrestrial materials,
2) to identify analogue samples crucial for evaluating and defining the protocols necessary to accomplish safe and sustainable handling of extra-terrestrial materials,
3) to create a list of different types of samples that would be required for a sample curation facility.

In order to evaluate the objectives listed above, it is important to define the basic functions of a curation facility. We expect the facility to be used for receiving and opening of the returned sample canisters, as well as for handling and preparation of the returned samples. Furthermore it will provide some basic analysis of the returned samples, i.e. initial sample characterisation and is expected to provide long-term storage of the returned samples. Each of these basic functions requires special equipment, e.g. for sample handling, manipulation, storage and analysis. Equipment, handling protocols and long-term storage conditions will strongly depend on the characteristics of the materials depending whether returned samples are from Moon, Mars or an asteroidal body. Therefore it needs to be considered what are the different types of analogue samples, what is the nature of the materials, what analogues are needed for what purpose, what mass is needed, and how analogue samples are stored within the facility.

Types and nature of analogue samples

We distinguish different types of analogue samples that can be of different nature to be considered for a curation facility. Detailed information is available here: samples types. Each proposed analogue contains specific information which are provided in the form of an spreadsheet, that was especially developed for this purpose. These spreadsheets can be consulted via the on line database.

Storage considerations

How and where analogue samples are stored within the facility differs for restricted or unrestricted sample return. Furthermore contamination assessment, and control plans during all curation activities must be considered. We assume that analogues, reference, standard and voucher samples need to be kept temporally and/or spatially isolated from the extraterrestrial samples but easily accessible. Witness plates need to be close to returned extraterrestrial samples. All past plates should be stored separated from returned extraterrestrial samples.

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EuropeThis project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 640190