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Title: Mars, like the Atacama Desert, might be conducive to ..


1
  • Methods of Astrobiology
  • By
  • Michael Timmons
  • Analytical/Radio/Nuclear (ARN) Seminar Spring
    2006

2
Overview
  • What is COSPAR
  • Requirements for Life Detection
  • Soil Experiments in the Atacama Desert
  • TWEEL and Robotic Soil Analyzer
  • Conclusions

3
COSPAR
  • COMMITTEE ON SPACE RESEARCH
  • Established in 1958 by the International Council
    for Science
  • Objectives are the progress of all kinds of
    research carried out with the use of space means
  • Strives to promote the use of space science for
    the benefit of mankind

4
COSPAR Requirements for Life Detection
Experiments
  • Guidelines to avoid the harmful contamination and
    also adverse changes in the environment of the
    Earth resulting from the introduction of
    extraterrestrial matter
  • Planetary protection policy, both as an
    international standard on procedures to avoid
    organic-constituent and biological contamination
    in space exploration
  • Five Categories of requirements

5
Category I
  • Includes any mission to a target body which is
    not of direct interest for understanding the
    process of chemical evolution or the origin of
    life.
  • No protection of such bodies is warranted and no
    planetary protection requirements are imposed by
    this policy

6
Category II
  • Missions to those target bodies where there is
    interest relative to the process of chemical
    evolution and the origin of life
  • Only a remote chance that contamination carried
    by a spacecraft could jeopardize future
    exploration

7
Category III
  • Missions (mostly flyby and orbiter) to a target
    body of chemical evolution and/or origin of life
  • Significant chance of contamination which could
    jeopardize a future biological experiment

8
Category IV
  • Missions (mostly probe and lander) to a target
    body of chemical evolution and/or origin of life
  • Significant chance of contamination which could
    jeopardize future biological experiments

9
Category V
  • Comprise all Earth-return missions
  • Concern is the protection of the terrestrial
    system, the Earth and the Moon
  • Requirements that encompass those of Category IV
    plus a continual monitoring of project
    activities, sterilization procedures and
    containment techniques

10
Atacama Desert
  • Located in Northern Chile
  • Known as the driest place on Earth
  • A series of dry salt basins
  • Rain has never been recorded in some localities
  • Virtually sterile environment
  • Location used by NASA to test instruments for
    future Mars missions

11
Microbial Life in Atacama
  • Recently discovered low numbers of bacteria and
    recoverable bacterial DNA
  • Results demonstrate the existence of life in one
    of the driest regions on Earth
  • Mars, like the Atacama Desert, might be conducive
    to microbial life
  • Findings suggest techniques that might be used
    during future Mars missions

12
1976 Viking Missions to Mars
  • Provided strong evidence for microbial life
  • Shortcomings of the missions
  • The huge expense of sterilizing the entire
    spacecraft to protect the integrity of life
    detection experiments
  • The lack of a practical robotic life detection
    package

13
Evidence for Life on Mars
  • Ice lies tens of centimeters beneath the surface
    of wide areas of Mars
  • Meteorites have provided evidence of past life
    forms
  • Discovery of extremophiles, such as in Atacama,
    demonstrates that many terrestrial microbial
    forms can withstand environmental extremes

14
Ideal Instrumentation Design
  • Complies with COSPAR requirements for life
    detection experiments
  • Minimal sterilization area
  • Allow interchangeable devices for conducting
    multiple experiments
  • Robust delivery system

15
TWEEL
  • Twin Wireless Extraterrestrial Experiment for
    Life
  • An ejectable probe sheathed within its own
    cylindrical case fixed within the canister
  • Each individual TWEEL contains the equipment for
    a variety of experiments (i.e. pH, temperature,
    water sensors)

16
TWEEL EQUIPPED FOR LR/CIRCADIAN
RHYTHM/PHOTOSYNTHESIS EXPERIMENT
17
TWEEL Operation
  • TWEELs are aerodynamically designed so that their
    noses impact first
  • The depth of penetration is controlled by flanges
    that deploy upon impact
  • TWEEL launches may be simultaneous or individual
  • Each TWEEL has internal two-way radio
    communication with the lander

18
Robotic Mars Soil Analyzer
19
Conclusion
  • The Robotic Soil Analyzer provides a simple,
    low-cost, and convenient method for testing
    Martian soil
  • Adheres to COSPAR requirements for life detection
    experiments
  • Provides multi-experiment conditions
  • The samples excavated by the TWEELs are pristine

20
References
  • A sterile robotic Mars soil analyzer, Gilbert V.
    Levin, Joseph D. Miller, Patricia Ann Straat, and
    Richard E. Hoover, Spherix Incorporated,
    University of Southern California, NASA Marshall
    Space Flight Center, http//mars.spherix.com/SPIE_
    2002_FINAL.htm
  • Rafael Navarro-González, Fred A. Rainey,
    Christopher P. McKay, Science, vol. 306 (2004)
  • R. M. Maier, K. P. Drees, J.W. Neilson, D. A.
    Henderson, J. Quade, J. L. Betancourt, Reports,
    p. 1018 (2003)
  • G. M. Colores, R. E. Macur, D. M.Ward,W. P.
    Inskeep, Appl. Environ.Microbiol. 66, 2959 (2000)
  • 5. M. J. Ferris, G. Muyzer, D. M. Ward, Appl.
    Environ. Microbiol. 62, 340 (1996)
  • R. Navarro-González et al., Int. J.Astrobiol.,
    suppl. 1, p. 82 (2004)
  • http//www.cosparhq.org/
  • http//www.cosparhq.org/scistr/PPPolicy.htm
  • http//sunsite.dcc.uchile.cl/chile/turismo/atacama
    .html
  • http//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atacama
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