Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Cleaning Protocol For Future 'Search For Life' Missions

Date:
June 10, 2009
Source:
University of Leeds
Summary:
Scientists have developed a new cleaning protocol for space hardware, such as the scoops of Mars rovers, which could be used on future "search for life" missions on other planets.

Testing of next generation rovers onboard the Arctic Mars Analogue Svalbard Expedition. This "Cliffbot" rover is being designed to sample rock outcrops on Mars and the Moon where scientifically relevant samples are easier to access.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Kvell Ove Storvik, Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition (AMASE). Rover courtesy of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology.

Scientists have developed a new cleaning protocol for space hardware, such as the scoops of Mars rovers, which could be used on future "Search for Life" missions on other planets.

The new protocol was developed as part of a project to investigate life that exists in extreme Arctic environments, which are the closest analogue we have on Earth to the surface of Mars. The studies are also designed to help guide future NASA and ESA planetary missions.

Published in the journal Astrobiology, the decontamination protocol was developed and tested by scientists at the University of Leeds and NASA. It deals with the dilemma known as 'forward contamination' - ensuring that bugs from Earth don't hitch a ride across space and jeopardise the integrity of samples collected by rovers.

The decontamination protocol involves a cocktail of chemicals that were applied and tested on various sampling devices, including a glacial ice core drill and a rover scoop.

"We are trying to avoid a case of mistaken identity," says Professor Liane Benning, a biogeochemist from the University of Leeds and co-author of the paper.

"We know that on Mars, if present, any biological signatures will be extremely scarce. Therefore it is essential that we are able to minimise 'background noise' and to document just how clean our sampling devices really are before we use them," she adds.

"We are now able to fully decontaminate sampling devices in the lab and field to null levels of detectable organic biosignatures, before any samples are collected. Importantly, this new procedure doesn't just sterilise, but it also cleans off any trace organic molecules of dead organisms," says Professor Benning.

The work was carried out as part of the Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expeditions (AMASE) which uses Svalbard (a set of islands in the Arctic ocean at 74-80˚N) as an international test site for NASA and ESA "Search for Life" instrumentation scheduled to fly on future Mars missions.

Svalbard is an excellent terrestrial analogue environment to Mars as life is scarce and it has a similar geology and many pristine glaciers.

"This work also enabled recent habitability and biomarker preservation studies in the extreme glacial settings of Svalbard. In addition, this work will guide future planetary missions, especially those to icy regions in the Solar System, such as Mars, or the moons of Jupiter and Saturn (Europa and Enceladus) where we are interested in understanding the potential habitats of cold-loving organisms living in ice," says Dr Jennifer Eigenbrode, NASA research scientist.

This work was carried out during the 2005 and 2006 field seasons of AMASE and was funded by a NASA ASTEP award to co-author Andrew Steele at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and grants from the Earth and Biosphere Institute at the University of Leeds to Liane G. Benning.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leeds. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Eigenbrode et al. A Field-Based Cleaning Protocol for Sampling Devices Used in Life-Detection Studies. Astrobiology, 2009; 090604064537080 DOI: 10.1089/ast.2008.0275

Cite This Page:

University of Leeds. "New Cleaning Protocol For Future 'Search For Life' Missions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090608071952.htm>.
University of Leeds. (2009, June 10). New Cleaning Protocol For Future 'Search For Life' Missions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090608071952.htm
University of Leeds. "New Cleaning Protocol For Future 'Search For Life' Missions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090608071952.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth's Near-Twin Found Orbiting Red Dwarf

Earth's Near-Twin Found Orbiting Red Dwarf

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The newly-discovered planet is roughly the size of Earth and could have liquid water on its surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A bump in the rings could be a half-mile-wide miniature moon. It was found by accident in Cassini probe images. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) A total lunar eclipse, the first since December 2011, took place early Tuesday morning with the Americas getting the best glimpse. Duration: 1:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

AP (Apr. 15, 2014) Star gazers in parts of North and South America got a rare treat early Tuesday morning - a total eclipse of the moon. (April 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins