Mission: To advance our understanding of the Solar System through the: i) development of cutting-edge analytical techniques; ii) analysis of terrestrial samples and planetary analogs; iii) maturation of pioneering new technologies; and, iv) definition of innovative planetary mission concepts.
Current Research Projects
AROMA: ADVANCED RESOLUTION ORGANIC MOLECULE ANALYZER FOR COMPLETE ORGANIC CHARACTERIZATION
PI: Ricardo Arevalo
By leveraging a heritage linear ion trap mass analyzer, the AROMA instrument reproduces the functionality of the MOMA flight instrument (on the ExoMars rover), but with an extended mass range (up to 2000 Da) and more capable laser (higher energy plus precision attenuation). Equipped with an Orbitrap analyzer adapted for spaceflight, referred to as the CosmOrbitrap by the consortium of French laboratories responsible for its development, the AROMA instrument delivers higher mass resolution and accuracy than any instrument previously flown to date (e.g., the ROSINA time-of-flight mass spectrometer on the Rosetta spacecraft) or baselined for future missions (e.g., MASPEX on the Europa Clipper mission). A breadboard of the system has been built and is currently being tested through the NASA ROSES PICASSO Program.
CRATER: CHARACTERIZATION OF REGOLITH AND TRACE ECONOMIC RESOURCES FOR LUNAR SURFACE EXPLORATION
PI: Ricardo Arevalo
Laser desorption/ablation mass spectrometry, as empowered by the CosmOrbitrap mass analyzer and a pulsed UV laser system, enables the characterization of: mineralogical constitution and inorganic elemental composition of geological samples; distributions, abundances, and diversity of organic compounds; and, economically viable resources. The CosmOrbitrap breadboard instrument in Orléans, France has been shown to detect amino acids and other prebiotic molecules down to pmol-level concentrations while maintaining 3 ppm (or better) mass accuracy, m/Δm > 100,000 (FWHM) mass resolution at m/z 100, and <1% (2σ) isotopic precision. A low SWaP (Size, Weight and Power) advanced prototype that maps to a spaceflight configuration is currently in design through the NASA ROSES DALI Program. Image modified from Arevalo et al. (2018) Rapid Communications.
KARLE: POTASSIUM-ARGON LASER EXPERIMENT
PI: Barbara Cohen
Radiometric dating techniques provide the foundation for establishing the absolute timing of formational events in the inner Solar System, including crystallization histories, magmatic evolution, and alteration events. The K-Ar Laser Experiment (KArLE), an in situ investigation that unites a novel combination of several flight-proven components, enables accurate dating of planetary materials and identification of the most compelling samples to cache and/or return to Earth. A system-level engineering brassboard, compatible with a variety of commercial lunar lander platforms, will be built, tested, and qualified for spaceflight through the NASA ROSES DALI Program. Image modified from Cohen et al. (2014) GGR.
CORALS: CHARACTERIZATION OF OCEAN REALMS AND LIFE SIGNATURES
PI: Ricardo Arevalo
The CORALS investigation promises to redefine our understanding of Europa as a potentially habitable world by enabling: 1) chemical imaging of ocean residues, salt deposits, and radiolytic products via laser microprocessing and active beam scanning, circumventing the need for sample motion; 2) measurements of trace levels of organic compounds, molecular fragments, and inorganic mineralogical indicators; 3) high-precision determinations of abundance patterns and isotopic ratios; and, 4) unrivaled disambiguation of isobaric interferences and isotopologues. Through the NASA ROSES ICEE 2 Program, we are developing a high-fidelity engineering test unit that will meet the form/fit/function of the flight model, deliver full science performance, and survive random vibration and dry heat microbial reduction (DHMR).