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Planetary Instrument Concepts for the Advancement of Solar System Observations

MACROS: Molecular Analyzer for Complex Refractory Organic-rich Surfaces

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

MACROS: Molecular Analyzer for Complex Refractory Organic-rich Surfaces

MACROS will be capable of comprehensively analyzing the surface chemistry of astrobiologically important planetary bodies to determine the composition of small, soluble organic molecules, non-volatile macromolecular organic carbon reservoirs, and inorganic composition of local mineralogy that can play a role in organic and inorganic chemical processes during planetary body evolution. Future landed missions to solar system destinations of high astrochemical and astrobiological interest will require science instrumentation capable of conducting broad, comprehensive, and highly sensitive in situ analyses of surface materials. A primary goal of any such landed mission will be a detailed characterization of the local chemical environment. MACROS will assess habitability (as in the case of Europa, Enceladus, or Titan) and/or assess the possible role of small bodies in the seeding of organic compounds on early Earth and throughout the solar system (as in the case of icy asteroids and comets). MACROS is an advanced laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometer (LDMS), capable of sample acquisition, solvent extraction, and presentation of liquid analyte at the inlet of the mass spectrometer, that will provide sophisticated sample analysis beyond the capabilities of LDMS alone. The outcome of the proposed work will be a MACROS instrument laboratory prototype that will determine inorganic mineral composition, broadband organic sample content, and detailed structural analysis of high-priority compound classes for a thorough understanding of the chemistry of planetary surface materials.

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Anticipated Benefits

Primary U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

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