Researchers at NASA are currently hard at work on the proposed Mars 2020 rover, which will expand upon previous missions to help determine Mars’ potential habitability, both past and present. One task the rover might face is to collect and cache scientific samples that could one day be returned to Earth for further study.

Protecting such samples from contamination has been identified as an important and complex issue by the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), and was the subject of an independent investigation by the Mars 2020 Organic Contamination Panel (OCP).

In 2014, the OCP convened to evaluate and recommend sample contamination requirements for the proposed Mars 2020 mission. The resulting report, “Planning Considerations Related to the Organic Contamination of Martian Samples and Implications for the Mars 2020 Rover,” was published in the journal Astrobiology and is available online.

A pdf is also available from the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group at, or by clicking here.