A critical component of NASA's Mars exploration program involves bringing planetary samples back to Earth for in-depth analysis, plans for which are detailed in the latest issue of Astrobiology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The report is available free online at www.liebertpub.com/ast
In the published report entitled, "Science Priorities for Mars Sample Return," the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) describes 11 scientific objectives for future missions, which could best be met through extensive analysis of martian samples using the tools and instruments available in state-of-the-art laboratories on Earth. As noted in the paper, "spacecraft instrumentation cannot perform critical measurements such as precise radiometric age dating, sophisticated stable isotopic analyses, and definitive life-detection assays."
Direct access to martian samples would enable subsampling for different types of analysis, as well as sample archiving for future studies. Unlike the situation with meteorite samples from Mars, returned samples could be collected from multiple selected sites with defined contextual information and would represent types of materials that are not present in the meteorite collection. Furthermore, the samples could be packaged and transported under conditions that approximate those found on the martian surface to maintain their integrity.
This issue of Astrobiology also includes a special collection of papers that describe "Instruments for In Situ Exploration of Planets," compiled by Guest Editors Max Coleman and Frank Grunthaner, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena.
"The papers in this collection complement each other to give a fairly comprehensive view of the achievements and issues in this area," write the editors.
Astrobiology is an authoritative peer-reviewed journal published bimonthly in print and online. The Journal provides a forum for scientists seeking to advance our understanding of life's origins, evolution, distribution and destiny in the universe. A complete table of contents and a full text for this issue may be viewed online.
Astrobiology is the leading peer-reviewed journal in its field. To promote this developing field, the Journal has teamed up with The Astrobiology Web to highlight one outstanding paper per issue of Astrobiology. This paper is available free online at www.liebertpub.com/ast and to visitors of The Astrobiology Web at www.astrobiology.com
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. is a privately held, fully integrated media company known for establishing authoritative peer-reviewed journals in many promising areas of science and biomedical research Its biotechnology trade magazine, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN), was the first in its field and is today the industry's most widely read publication worldwide. A complete list of the firm's 60 journals, books, and newsmagazines is available at www.liebertpub.com
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