A paper describes the Sample Caching Subsystem (SCS), a method for storing planetary core and soil samples in a container that seals the samples away from the environment to protect the integrity of the samples and any organics they might contain. This process places samples in individual sleeves that are sealed within a container for use by either the current mission or by following

missions.

A sample container is stored with its sleeves partially inserted. When a sample is ready to be contained, a transfer arm rotates over and grasps a sleeve, pulls it out of the container from below, rotates over and inserts the sleeve into a funnel where it is passively locked into place and then released from the arm. An external sampling tool deposits the sample into the sleeve, which is aligned with the tool via passive compliance of the funnel. After the sampling tool leaves the funnel, the arm retrieves the sleeve and inserts it all the way into the sample container. This action engages the seal. Full containers can be left behind for pick-up by subsequent science missions, and container dimensions are compatible for placement in a Mars Ascent Vehicle for later return to Earth.

This work was done by Paul G. Backes and Curtis L. Collins of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


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Sample Caching Subsystem

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NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2007 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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