Definition of Life

Preliminary Steps
  Geological Survey
  Sample Collection

Present Life
  Spectroscopic Analysis
  Organic Analysis
  Biology Experiments

Past Life
  Thin Section
  Isotope Analysis


Experimental Design

Present Life: Spectroscopic Analysis

Introduction and Background Information

Spectroscopy is the most prevalent form of molecular and elemental identification in practice today, and it will be an extremely critical tool and form of analysis for determining whether life exists or existed on Mars. 

We have classified our experiments into two overarching categories: the search for past life (geology) and the search for present life (biology/chemistry). Within each category, a series of detailed protocols and a basic timeline have been established to facilitate our search for life on Mars. Spectroscopic analysis will be most useful for the search of present life, yet it will also aid the experiments for the search of past life. 

Four principle types of spectroscopy have been determined to be the most useful for our research purposes: Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectroscopy, Infrared Spectroscopy, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, and Alpha-Proton X-Ray Spectroscopy. By themselves, these instruments are extremely powerful, yet used in conjunction with one another, they will allow us to hone in on any life that may exist or may have existed on Mars. 

Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS)

Infrared Spectroscopy (IR)

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Spectroscopy

Alpha-Proton X-Ray Spectrometer (APX)

Spectroscopic Analysis will be a critical part of our mission to Mars. The aforementioned forms of spectroscopy are both going to be used as a preliminary test for narrowing our search of sample sites on Mars, but also for determining if certain samples contain the basic ingredients for life.

Links and References

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Comments and questions to mission2004-students@mit.edu Last updated: 10 December, 2000