Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Search for life in Martian ice relies on UK technology

26.07.2007
The Martian surface will be explored for conditions favourable for past or present life thanks to micro-machine technology supplied by Imperial College London. The NASA mission, planned for August 2007, represents the first chance for UK hardware to contribute to the exploration of Mars since the failed Beagle 2 spacecraft launched in 2003.

Dr Tom Pike and his team at Imperial’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering have provided substrates—surfaces used to hold samples for imaging—for the Mars Phoenix mission. These substrates will hold dust and soil for examination in a microscope station attached to the Phoenix lander.

The grains of Martian dust and soil, delivered by a mechanical excavating arm, will be imaged by an optical microscope and an atomic force microscope. Together they will provide the highest resolution of imaging ever taken on another planet.

“Nobody has looked at Mars at this type of resolution. It is very difficult to predict what we might find, but if you wanted to look for the earliest forms of past or present life we will be the first to look closely enough,” said Dr Pike.

The team has been conducting trials on a replica of Phoenix’s microscope station based at Imperial. They have been using the equipment for several months to work out the best way of studying the Martian soil.

They also visited Mission Control at the University of Arizona Tucson USA (14–20 July 2007). As part of the “operational readiness” process Dr Pike and his colleagues spent a week going through a simulation of the actual mission.

The launch date is scheduled for a three-week period after 3 August 2007.
The aim of the NASA mission is to search for potential biological habitable zones. The Phoenix lander is scheduled to touch down on the northern ice-rich polar region known as the Vastitas Borealis. The mission represents the first attempt to actually touch and analyse Martian water in the form of buried ice. The spacecraft will investigate whether frozen water near the Martian surface might periodically melt enough to sustain a habitable zone for primitive microbes.

If Phoenix lands successfully scientists will have three months to complete their tasks. They will race against the clock to dig for, and analyse, materials before the Martian winter sets in and the solar panels no longer provide enough power to run the vehicle.

During the analysis phase Dr Pike and his team will be based at Mission Control. They will be part of the team operating the microscope station.

The construction of the microscope station is an international collaboration with contributions from the U.S., Switzerland, Demark and the UK. The UK involvement is supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

“This is the first chance since the Beagle mission that the UK will be able to help explore the surface of Mars. It is great to have the resources and the people at Imperial to enable us to take part in this mission,” said Dr Pike.

Colin Smith | alfa
Further information:
http://www.imperial.ac.uk

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Study shows how water could have flowed on 'cold and icy' ancient Mars
18.10.2017 | Brown University

nachricht Los Alamos researchers and supercomputers help interpret the latest LIGO findings
18.10.2017 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Los Alamos researchers and supercomputers help interpret the latest LIGO findings

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Study shows how water could have flowed on 'cold and icy' ancient Mars

18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Navigational view of the brain thanks to powerful X-rays

18.10.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>