European Curation and Analysis Facility for Mars Samples

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In Short

Investigations of Mars samples can only be carried out in a cleanliness-controlled environment. In cooperation with ERINHA and ESA, researchers from Fraunhofer IPA have planned a curation and analysis facility for this purpose. The facility allows contamination free handling to protect both the samples and the operators.


In Detail

Researchers from the department Ultraclean Technology and Micromanufacturing at Fraunhofer IPA have longstanding experience in the planning and realisation of ultraclean environments. This expertise is used, for instance, in dealing with highly critical products and materials such as extraterrestrial material. This also includes dealing with samples from Mars.

In cooperation with ERINHA (European Research Infrastructure on Highly Pathogenic Agents), who have expertise in the infrastructure for dealing with highly pathogenic agents, and ESA (European Space Agency), a curation and analysis facility was planned. This facility is to be used for the analysis of Mars samples starting in 2030.

Two aspects are crucial when planning such a laboratory: On the one hand, the samples must be protected from cross-contamination, e.g. in order to avoid false-positive results. On the other hand, it has to be considered that the samples themselves may contain dangerous substances which might be toxic and/or pathogenic to humans. Consequently, the operator and the environmental area have to be protected equally. The researchers at Fraunhofer IPA have developed a concept for the realization of a facility that guarantees both aspects and will be the base for further planning and realization of such a facility at ESA and NASA.