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Mars Oxidant Instrument (MOI)
03.02.07
 
This is an image of the current version of the oxidant sensor instrument to be integrated into the Urey instrument package for use on the European Space Agency's ExoMars rover planned for launch in 2013 to the red planet.

The Mars Oxidant Instrument (MOI), was developed at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., in collaboration with the SETI Institute, Mountain View, Calif., and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"The instrument will determine if it is possible for life to survive on Mars today or if chemicals present on the surface of Mars destroy life and any evidence of past life," according to Richard Quinn, a co-investigator on the Mars sensor project from the SETI Institute, Mountain View, Calif., who works at NASA Ames.

"The Mars oxidant instrument is comprised of micro-sensors coated with a variety of chemical films," Quinn said. "By measuring the reaction of the sensor films with chemicals present in the martian soil and atmosphere, we can establish if organisms can survive or if evidence of past life would be preserved on Mars," Quinn explained.

MOI is comprised of two distinct hardware assemblies: a "deck unit" that is exposed to the martian environment on the rover surface, and an "internal unit" that will characterize the same subsurface samples that are analyzed by the rest of the Urey payload, which is designed to detect organic compounds. The deck unit will expose the same films to the martian air. Separate sections of the sensor array will be exposed to sunlight, dust, dust and sunlight, and only the martian atmosphere. The use of these filter configurations will allow the team to identify the environmental processes responsible for oxidation, while the internal unit will characterize the effects of those processes on organics and minerals on the surface.

The potential habitability of Mars has been bolstered by recent discoveries of subterranean life deep below Earth's surface. "Organisms have been found at depths of two kilometers in the Columbia River basalt, evidently directly metabolizing the igneous rocks in which they live," said Dr. Aaron Zent, a Urey co-investigator at NASA Ames.

oxidant sensor instrument Extreme close up of a single Mars Oxidant Instrument (MOI) chemical sensor array. It will be integrated into the Urey instrument package for use on the European Space Agency's ExoMars rover planned for launch in 2013 to the red planet. The Mars Oxidant Instrument, was developed at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., in collaboration with the SETI Institute, Mountain View, Calif., and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Click on the image for full-resolution.
oxidant sensor instrument Close up of six Mars Oxidant Instrument (MOI) sensor arrays configured into a soil cup. This is the current version of the oxidant sensor instrument to be integrated into the Urey instrument package for use on the European Space Agency's ExoMars rover planned for launch in 2013 to the red planet. The Mars Oxidant Instrument, was developed at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., in collaboration with the SETI Institute, Mountain View, Calif., and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Click on the image for full-resolution.


 
 
Image Credit: NASA/Ames Tom Trower