Unique mass spectrometer to explore Mars

Feb 15, 2007

A group of U.S. biomedical scientists has won a $750,000 NASA grant to design a mini mass spectrometer to aid in the search for life on Mars.

The Johns Hopkins Medical School scientists will design a prototype that can fit on a Mars Rover and search for the chemicals of life as the machine crawls over Mars' surface.

Pharmacologist and molecular scientist Professor Robert Cotter says the team, including specialists from Johns Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory and the University of California-Santa Barbara, will help in designing the instrument to probe Mars core samples for evidence of proteins or genetic information-carrying nucleic acids in a mission scheduled to launch in 2013.

"What a mass spectrometer can identify are chemical signatures of life or the building blocks of life that may have at some point existed on the Red Planet," said Cotter, who developed the basic design concept for the low-voltage ion trap mass spectrometer that will be used in the mission.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

Explore further: Google exec makes record skydive from edge of space

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

First light for MAVEN (w/ Video)

Oct 13, 2014

After 10-month voyage across more than 400 million miles of empty space, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft reached Mars on Sept. 21st 2014. Less than 8 hours later, the data started to flow.

Researchers measure ozone-depleting bromine

Sep 10, 2014

How much does bromine affect stratospheric ozone? Answering this question is the primary objective of measurements by a multi-instrument gondola carried by a high-altitude balloon. The gondola accommodates ...

Hydrogen powers important nitrogen-transforming bacteria

Aug 29, 2014

Nitrite-oxidizing bacteria are key players in the natural nitrogen cycle on Earth and in biological wastewater treatment plants. For decades, these specialist bacteria were thought to depend on nitrite as ...

How Titan's haze help us understand life's origins

Aug 25, 2014

Where did life on Earth come from? There are several theories as to what might have happened. Maybe comets came bearing organic material, or life was transported from another planet such as Mars, or something ...

Recommended for you

Asteroid 2014 SC324 zips by Earth Friday afternoon

11 hours ago

What a roller coaster week it's been. If partial eclipses and giant sunspots aren't your thing, how about a close flyby of an Earth-approaching asteroid?  2014 SC324 was discovered on September 30 this ...

User comments : 0