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Sample handling and processing on Mars for future astrobiology missions

Beegle, Luther and Kirby, James P. and Fisher, Anita and Hodyss, Robert and Saltzman, Alison and Soto, Juancarlos and Lasnik, James and Roark, Shane (2011) Sample handling and processing on Mars for future astrobiology missions. In: 2011 IEEE Aerospace Conference. IEEE , Piscataway, NJ, Art. No. 1602. ISBN 978-1-4244-7351-9.

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In most analytical investigations, there is a need to process complex field samples for the unique detection of analytes especially when detecting low concentration organic molecules that may identify extant and extinct extraterrestrial life. Sample processing for analytical instruments is time, resource and manpower consuming in terrestrial laboratories. Every step in this laborious process will have to be automated for in situ life detection. We have developed, and are currently testing, an automated wet chemistry preparation system that can operate autonomously on Earth and is designed to operate under Martian ambient conditions. This will enable a complete wet chemistry laboratory as part of future missions. Our system, namely the Automated Sample Processing System (ASPS) receives fines, extracts organics through solvent extraction, processes the extract by removing non-organic soluble species and delivers sample to multiple instruments for analysis (including for non-organic soluble species). One of the main goals of NASA in the exploration of the Solar System is to determine if life exists on any planet beyond earth. To over simplify, life on the Earth consists of water and a collection of key organic molecules that range from simple carbon bearing species from simple amino acids to highly complex macromolecule like DNA. If one was targeting identification of DNA like macromolecules, simple detection maybe enough to identify biomarkers, assuming they can be distinguished from terrestrial contamination. For smaller molecules, i.e. amino acids, quantification is vital so that potential biosignatures can be distinguished from ones abioticlly synthesized. Our system is inherently flexible and better enables both detection and quantification of these types of molecules.

Item Type:Book Section
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URLURL TypeDescription
Beegle, Luther0000-0002-4944-4353
Hodyss, Robert0000-0002-6523-3660
Additional Information:© 2011 IEEE. This research was carried out at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology under a contract from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and at Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp. We gratefully acknowledge funding from Mars Instrument Development Program.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Mars Instrument Development programsUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170302-134309532
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Official Citation:L. Beegle et al., "Sample handling and processing on Mars for future astrobiology missions," 2011 Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, MT, 2011, pp. 1-10. doi: 10.1109/AERO.2011.5747298
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:74671
Deposited By: Kristin Buxton
Deposited On:03 Mar 2017 03:21
Last Modified:09 Mar 2020 13:18

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