Raman Spectroscopic Analysis of Geological and Biogeological Specimens of Relevance to the ExoMars Mission

Howell G. M. Edwards, Ian B. Hutchinson*, Richard Ingley, John Parnell, Petr Vitek, Jan Jehlicka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

A novel miniaturized Raman spectrometer is scheduled to fly as part of the analytical instrumentation package on an ESA remote robotic lander in the ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars mission to search for evidence for extant or extinct life on Mars in 2018. The Raman spectrometer will be part of the first-pass analytical stage of the sampling procedure, following detailed surface examination by the PanCam scanning camera unit on the ExoMars rover vehicle. The requirements of the analytical protocol are stringent and critical; this study represents a laboratory blind interrogation of specimens that form a list of materials that are of relevance to martian exploration and at this stage simulates a test of current laboratory instrumentation to highlight the Raman technique strengths and possible weaknesses that may be encountered in practice on the martian surface and from which future studies could be formulated. In this preliminary exercise, some 10 samples that are considered terrestrial representatives of the mineralogy and possible biogeologically modified structures that may be identified on Mars have been examined with Raman spectroscopy, and conclusions have been drawn about the viability of the unambiguous spectral identification of biomolecular life signatures. It is concluded that the Raman spectroscopic technique does indeed demonstrate the capability to identify biomolecular signatures and the mineralogy in real-world terrestrial samples with a very high degree of success without any preconception being made about their origin and classification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-549
Number of pages7
JournalAstrobiology
Volume13
Issue number6
Early online date11 Jun 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013

Keywords

  • Biosignatures
  • Mars Exploration Rovers
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • Search for life (biosignatures)
  • Planetary instrumentation
  • Antarctic habitats
  • Mars
  • colonization
  • radiation

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