The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has awarded a $750,000 grant to a U.S. researcher for help in searching for evidence of past life on Mars.
NASA is funding the work by University of California-Santa Barbara organic chemist Luann Becker to further develop the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer -- an instrument nicknamed MOMA that will search for the remnants of life on Mars.
The analyzer -- a mass spectrometer -- will examine soil samples taken from up to 6 1/2 feet below the surface of Mars. It will be one of a suite of 10 instruments in the European Space Agency's ExoMars "Pasteur" payload, scheduled to arrive on Mars in 2013.
Becker is the principal investigator of a team that includes French and German scientists, as well as two co-investigators from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
NASA said ExoMars is to be launched from the Kourou space port in French Guiana and will deploy a highly mobile rover equipped with a drill to provide the first subsurface vertical profile of Mars.
Copyright 2007 by United Press International
Explore further: NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs