Field Trial of a Dual-Wavelength Fluorescent Emission (L.I.F.E.) Instrument and the Magma White Rover during the MARS2013 Mars Analog Mission

Author(s): G. Groemer, B. Sattler, K. Weisleitner, L. Hunger, C. Kohstall, A. Frisch, M. Józefowicz, S. Meszyński, M. Storrie-Lombardi, C. Bothe, A. Boyd, A. Dinkelaker, M. Dissertori, D. Fasching, M. Fischer, D. Föger, L. Foresta, N. Frischauf, L. Fritsch, H. Fuchs, C. Gautsch, S. Gerard, L. Goetzloff, I. Gołębiowska, P. Gorur, P. Groll, C. Haider, O. Haider, E. Hauth, S. Hauth, S. Hettrich, W. Jais, N. Jones, K. Taj-Eddine, A. Karl, T. Kauerhoff, M.S.Khan, A. Kjeldsen, J. Klauck, A. Losiak, M. Luger, T. Luger, U. Luger, J. McArthur, L. Moser, J. Neuner, C. Orgel, G.G. Ori, R. Paternesi, J. Peschier, I. Pfeil, S. Prock, J. Radinger, C. Ragonig, B. Ramirez, W. Ramo, M. Rampey, A. Sams, E. Sams, S. Sams, O. Sandu, A. Sans, P. Sansone, D. Scheer, D. Schildhammer, Q. Scornet, N. Sejkora, A. Soucek, A. Stadler, F. Stummer, W. Stumptner, M. Taraba, R. Tlustos, E. Toferer, T. Turetschek, E. Winter, K. Zanella-Kux

Journal: Astrobiology

Volume: 14

Page(s): 391-405

Year: 2014

DOI Number: 10.1089/ast.2013.1081

Link: Link to publication


We have developed a portable dual-wavelength laser fluorescence spectrometer as part of a multi-instrument optical probe to characterize mineral, organic, and microbial species in extreme environments. Operating at 405 and 532 nm, the instrument was originally designed for use by human explorers to produce a laser-induced fluorescence emission (L.I.F.E.) spectral database of the mineral and organic molecules found in the microbial communities of Earth's cryosphere. Recently, our team had the opportunity to explore the strengths and limitations of the instrument when it was deployed on a remote-controlled Mars analog rover. In February 2013, the instrument was deployed on board the Magma White rover platform during the MARS2013 Mars analog field mission in the Kess Kess formation near Erfoud, Morocco. During these tests, we followed tele-science work flows pertinent to Mars surface missions in a simulated spaceflight environment. We report on the L.I.F.E. instrument setup, data processing, and performance during field trials. A pilot postmission laboratory analysis determined that rock samples acquired during the field mission exhibited a fluorescence signal from the Sun-exposed side characteristic of chlorophyll a following excitation at 405 nm. A weak fluorescence response to excitation at 532 nm may have originated from another microbial photosynthetic pigment, phycoerythrin, but final assignment awaits development of a comprehensive database of mineral and organic fluorescence spectra. No chlorophyll fluorescence signal was detected from the shaded underside of the samples. Key Words: Biosensor—Life-detection instruments—Mars—Biomarkers—Planetary protection. Astrobiology 14, 391–405.

Note: Issue 5