Distributed Spectrometer for use on Mars

We will develop a mobile science instrumentation system capable of doing wide-area surveys for the detection of biogenic gases that may serve as indicators of life on Mars. Future surface rover missions of astrobiology interest would benefit from a capability to increase in situ measurement coverage and improve chances of detecting biosignatures. We will provide this capability in the form of a distributed spectrometer instrument system employing a rover and lander. Our goal is to develop a spectroscopy system for survey, detection, and in situ measurements of biogenic gases for their detection and quantification. Gases to be probed include methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, oxygen, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and formaldehyde. We will investigate the feasibility of detecting isotopic ratios of key gases with the instrument.

The instrument system is a variable path-length spectrometer with components distributed as payloads on a mobile science platform and stationary lander. The rover will carry an infrared diode laser source and laser radiation detector. The lander will be fitted with a passive retroreflector that reflects laser radiation from the source back to the detector. The instrument will determine the presence and concentration of biogenic gases in the laser beam between diode laser and retroreflector. Autonomous mobility, navigation, and instrument control technology will enable directed wide-area surveys.

Commercial rifle scope coupled with photodiode detector.

Laser beam striking retroreflective material

Diagram of scope mounting apparatus.

Near Infrared Oxygen Laser

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