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Exploration of the Habitability of Mars with the SAM Suite Investigation on the 2009 Mars Science LaboratoryThe 2009 Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) with a substantially larger payload capability that any other Mars rover, to date, is designed to quantitatively assess a local region on Mars as a potential habitat for present or past life. Its goals are (1) to assess past or present biological potential of a target environment, (2) to characterize geology and geochemistry at the MSL landing site, and (3) to investigate planetary processes that influence habitability. The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Suite, in its final stages of integration and test, enables a sensitive search for organic molecules and chemical and isotopic analysis of martian volatiles. MSL contact and remote surface and subsurface survey Instruments establish context for these measurements and facilitate sample identification and selection. The SAM instruments are a gas chromatograph (GC), a mass spectrometer (MS), and a tunable laser spectrometer (TLS). These together with supporting sample manipulation and gas processing devices are designed to analyze either the atmospheric composition or gases extracted from solid phase samples such as rocks and fines. For example, one of the core SAM experiment sequences heats a small powdered sample of a Mars rock or soil from ambient to -1300 K in a controlled manner while continuously monitoring evolved gases. This is followed by GCMS analysis of released organics. The general chemical survey is complemented by a specific search for molecular classes that may be relevant to life including atmospheric methane and its carbon isotope with the TLS and biomarkers with the GCMS.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Mahaffy, P. R.
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Cabane, M.
(Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Paris, France)
Webster, C. R.
(Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
April 14, 2008
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Science And Exploration
Meeting Information
Astrobiology Science Conference 2008(San Jose, CA)
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