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Draft Test Protocol Workshop Topics

Five separate interim reports provide the archival record of discussions
and deliberations associated with the Mars Sample Handling Protocol Workshop
Series, which took place between March 2000 and June 2001. The stated
objective for the Workshop Series was: “For returned Mars samples, develop
a recommended list of comprehensive tests, and their sequential order,
that will be performed to fulfill the NRC recommendations that ‘rigorous
analyses determine that the materials do not contain any biological hazards.’”

The workshop series ultimately led to the development of a Working Draft Protocol, which was later reviewed and revised to become the Draft Test Protocol for Detecting Possible Biohazards in martian Samples Returned to Earth (NASA/CP-2002-211842). Each workshop began with a set of background tutorials, followed by breakout sub-groups that deliberated on various assigned topics, and finally by plenary presentation and discussion of findings.

NOTE: Sub-group findings from the workshop series do not represent stand-alone recommendations, but rather the incremental information used as input towards the development of the overall Draft Protocol. An overview of the workshop documents may be gleaned from the subgroup topics discussed at each of the five workshops.


Workshop 1 Subgroup Topics:

  1. Preliminary Sample Characterization Requirements
  2. Representative Sub Samples: Physical-Chemical Analyses (2 groups)
  3. Sequence And Types Of Tests; Range Of Results And Release Criteria
  4. Candidate Life Detection Tests-Qualifiers, Contraindications, Controls And Characterization
  5. Candidate Biohazard Tests : Qualifiers, Contraindications, Controls And Characterization


Workshop 2 Subgroup Topics:

  1. Life Detection
  2. Biohazard Testing (2 groups)
  3. Physical and Chemical Tests
  4. Molecular Biological Tests
  5. Organism- and Cellular-Based Tests


Workshop 2a (Sterilization) Subgroup Topics:

  1. Survival Mechanisms of Terrestrial Extremophiles As Models For Resistance To Sterilization
  2. Worst Case Scenario of Sterilizing martian Samples
  3. Sterilization Methods And Procedures To Preserve Sample Integrity For Future Scientific Research
  4. If No Carbon Or Polymers Found, Is Sterilization Necessary Prior To Sample Distribution?
  5. Can martian Samples Be Sterilized Effectively and Safely Distributed Outside Containment Facility Prior To Completion Of Life Detection and Biohazard Tests and Other Chemical Analyses? (2 groups)
  6. Can Sub-Samples Of Preserved martian Meteorites Serve As Models To Test Sterilization Methods, Procedures, And Effectiveness?
  7. What Are Effective Sterilization Methods For Samples Returned From Mars? (2 Groups)


Workshop 3 Subgroup Topics:

  1. Unifying Properties of Life
  2. Morphological Organization and Chemical Properties of Life
  3. Geochemical and Geophysical Properties of Life
  4. Chemical Methods for Life Detection
  5. Cell Biology Methods for Life Detection
  6. Additional Topic: What if Life is Detected?


Workshop 4 Subgroup Topics:

  1. Review And Assess The Draft Protocol For Physical/Chemical Testing
  2. Review And Assess The Draft Protocol For Life Detection Testing
  3. Review And Assess The Draft Protocol For Biohazard Testing
  4. Environmental And Health/Monitoring And Safety Issues
  5. Requirements Of The Draft Protocol For Facilities And Equipment
  6. Contingency Planning For Different Outcomes Of The Draft Protocol
  7. Personnel Considerations In Implementation Of The Draft Protocol
  8. Draft Protocol Implementation Process And Update Concepts
  9. Plenary Discussion on R&D needs for implementing the protocol

The Workshop 4 report also includes the Working Draft Protocol in Appendix A, the first consensus compilation of a proof-of-concept protocol developed during the workshop series.