Invention could aid Mars probes' search for life

Aug 16, 2010
Invention could aid Mars probes' search for life
The research identified in the ermite hindgut microbial community and their main processes.

The next generation of Mars rovers could have smaller, cheaper, more robust and more sensitive life-detecting instruments, thanks to a new invention by scientists at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory.

The INL team has come up with an efficient new way to generate complex electric fields, which will make it easier to direct , or charged particles, along specified paths. The researchers just filed a patent application for their Total Ion Control (TIC) method, a key advance in the field of mass spectrometry.

allows scientists to determine the of a sample. The technique is one of the best ways to find signs of life, such as proteins and amino acids, on other worlds.

To move ions into a trap for analysis, most current mass spectrometers rely heavily on air flow created by pumps. But this system isn't ideal for , because pumps are heavy and use a lot of energy. Ion inlets based on TIC technology can greatly reduce the need for pumps, getting good ion flow by generating versatile, intricate electric fields.

Tests at INL have shown that TIC-based inlets shepherd 10 times as many ions into the trap as commercially available inlets do. And TIC-based inlets weigh less than an ounce and require just 100 milliwatts of power at most — one thousand times less than a 100-watt light bulb.

ExoMars, a joint NASA-European Space Agency mission scheduled to launch in 2018, will put a rover down on Mars to look for signs of life. TIC-based ion inlets could well be on board; the INL researchers are currently talking to the makers of the ExoMars rover's mass spectrometers.

Explore further: NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Source DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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Jordian
2 / 5 (4) Aug 16, 2010
I'd much rather see that money being put towards Europa or Titan. Mars, for all intents and purposes is a huge desert planet. It's an extremely interesting place, but if you're looking for life it won't be found there. Too many requirements are missing for life to exist as we know it.
BigTone
5 / 5 (1) Aug 17, 2010
By all means, plz share with us the requirements for life to exist as we know it... I'm not sure the astrobiologist's and extremophile researchers have concluded their work...
Jordian
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 17, 2010
By all means, plz share with us the requirements for life to exist as we know it... I'm not sure the astrobiologist's and extremophile researchers have concluded their work...


Look I'm not saying there isn't life there, I'm saying the likelihood of life being there is far lower than some of the other possible prospects.
rwinners
5 / 5 (1) Aug 18, 2010
Have to agree, Europa is a more likely place to find life.. but then Mars is a lot closer and much easier to engineer for. It is also the most likely place that we will visit, other than our moon.
htomfields
not rated yet Aug 20, 2010
Cool video about powering Mars Rovers and New Horizons mission with

nuclear batteries.
http://www.facebo...p;ref=mf

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