Dr. Richard Quinn

December 21, 2006

Chemical and Astrobiological Investigations of Mars and Europa Analogs

NCC 2–1408

This project covers two areas of interest in how to understand more precisely the surficial characteristics of Mars and Europa:

Europa Ice Analyzer

There is observational evidence, supported by theoretical considerations, for the simultaneous presence of both oxidants and organics in the surface ices of Europa. Chyba (2000) has argued that disequilibrium chemistry in the ice should produce enough organic and oxidant molecules to fuel a substantial biota in the Europan oceans. These oxidants and organics form the observational targets of the proposed instrument. Their in-situ detection and confirmation represent one of the most significant challenges in the next decade of Europa investigations.

Mars Oxidant Instrument

The Mars Oxidant Instrument (MOI) seeks to characterize, quantify, and identify Martian oxidants. MOI is a survey instrument that treats the soil as a composite of unknown reactants that can be modeled and identified by cataloging the reactivity of these species with a set of well-characterized reference materials. The method uses a suite of integrating solid-state chemical sensors that results in a simple, low-mass, low-power analyzer that can operate in a non-aqueous mode. The MOI instrument is derived from a series of instruments and investigations that have aimed at understanding the nature of Martian oxidants. The method of using thin-film reference reactants to probe solid/solid reactions has heritage that extends from the development and production of the Mars Oxidant (MOx) instrument on the ill-fated 1996 Russian Mars mission (Grunthaner et al., 1995; McKay et al., 1998). The Thermo-Acoustic Oxidant Sensor (TAOS) (Zent et al., 1998) extended the capability of MOx through the utilization of chemiresistors, the transducers employed by MOI.