Free Newsletters - Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear
..
. 24/7 Space News .




EXO LIFE
Curious About Life: Interview with Chris McKay
by Staff Writers for Astrobiology Magazine
Moffett Field CA (SPX) Sep 17, 2012


Chris McKay

In this interview, Chris McKay describes how he'll use two of Curiosity Rover's instruments: he'll help determine what ChemCam should focus its laser on, and then compare the organic analysis by the SAM instrument to what was measured by the Mars Viking mission, and also to what he's found in deserts on Earth.

The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover has 10 science instruments, and each will be used in the coming weeks and months to help characterize the environment of Mars and determine if the planet ever had the potential for life.

The Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) will study Martian rocks and soil in depth. A laser will target selected rocks, creating an ionized, glowing plasma that will be used to analyze their composition. The instrument's camera will resolve features 5 to 10 times more in-depth than previous rovers. NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay is part of the ChemCam team. He also works with the Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument, which will study the geological pieces of the red planet.

What kind of science do you generally do?

My interest is in the search for organics on Mars. I've been involved in looking at organic content in desert soils on Earth as an analog for Mars. There are two deserts that I think are the best analogs for Mars. The Atacama desert in Chile and the Dry Valleys of Antarctica.

The Atacama desert in Chile is the driest desert in the world, and the Dry Valleys in Antarctica are the coldest deserts. Since Mars is very cold and very dry, these are very relevant. What kind of results have you had in searching for these organics on Earth?

What we find is that, in every desert on the Earth, no matter how dry or hot or cold, there are organics present. We also find that these organics are present despite the presence of oxidants in the same soil. This suggests that the soils on Mars could have organics even if they had oxidants. That's one reason I'm optimistic that MSL will find organics in the soil on Mars.

We know that there are oxidants in the soil on Mars, and people have assumed that they would have destroyed the organics. What we're finding on Earth is that, in a dry soil, the oxidants won't destroy the organics.

What do you do specifically with MSL?

I'm part of the SAM team, and also part of the ChemCam team.

On the SAM team, I'm involved in the analysis of the data, and the same on the ChemCam team, and discussions of what experiments and measurements to make in the future. I'm involved in the scientific analysis. I'm not involved in the technology of the instruments or the calibration of the instruments; I'm involved in the scientific analysis of the results.

For example, one thing I'll be involved in is comparing the results of the SAM analysis to what was measured by Viking many years ago on Mars, and to what we have been measuring in deserts on Earth. In terms ChemCam, one of my interests is how to use the ChemCam laser instrument to select samples for the organic analysis by SAM. I'm a link between those two instruments.

I'm involved in all of the instruments on SAM, but my real focus is on the organic analysis of the soil. SAM does a lot of different things. I'll be a little bit involved in all of them, but my real focus and interest is the soil organics.

With ChemCam, I'm not sure what we'll be doing. One of the general goals of ChemCam is to select samples for analysis by the other instruments on the rover. In that respect, I'm trying to figure out how we can use ChemCam to select samples for SAM. We're going to learn how to do that as we get more data from ChemCam and more data from SAM. I think how to select samples for SAM using ChemCam will be a learning process.

SAM takes very small samples, cubic centimeter or less. We don't need a lot of dirt or ground-up rock.

At this point, we are preparing to collect the first soil samples. So the rover is looking for a suitable soil to collect but we have not yet collected it.

How could your work with MSL help to answer astrobiology questions?

The question we want to know is the possibility of life on Mars. The first step is determining water; we've already done that. The next step is searching for organics, and that's the step that MSL is focusing on.

.


Related Links
Astrobiology Magazine
Life Beyond Earth
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





EXO LIFE
Extreme Life Forms Might be Able to Survive on Eccentric Exoplanets
Pasadena CA (JPL) Sep 14, 2012
Astronomers have discovered a veritable rogues' gallery of odd exoplanets- from scorching hot worlds with molten surfaces to frigid ice balls. And while the hunt continues for the elusive "blue dot"- a planet with roughly the same characteristics as Earth- new research reveals that life might actually be able to survive on some of the many exoplanetary oddballs that exist. "When we're talk ... read more


EXO LIFE
Remains of astronaut legend Neil Armstrong buried at sea

Memorial service honors 'man on the moon' Armstrong

Chandrayaan II may be delayed, says ISRO Chief

First man on moon to be buried at sea: Armstrong family

EXO LIFE
Squyres Warns Congress of Threats to Mars Program

India to launch Mars mission in 2013: official

Aging Mars rover discovers geological mystery

Mars Rover Curiosity Arm Tests Nearly Complete

EXO LIFE
Mankind's messenger at the final frontier

35 years on, Voyager 'dancing on edge' of outer space

Space-age food served up with seeds of success

Africa eyes joint space agency

EXO LIFE
Tiangong Orbit Change Signals Likely Date for Shenzhou 10

China Focus: Timeline for China's space research revealed

China eyes next lunar landing as US scales back

China unveils ambitious space projects

EXO LIFE
Europe's ATV-3 Spacecraft to Readjust Space Station's Orbit

NASA Offers Opportunity to Use Communications Testbed on Space Station

Japanese Freighter Undocks From Space Station

Woman takes command of ISS after crew return

EXO LIFE
Russian rocket sends European weather satellite into orbit

ISRO's 100th space mission blasts off, PM witnesses historic event

SES signs three satellite launches with SpaceX

S. Korea to make third rocket launch bid in October

EXO LIFE
Two 'hot Jupiters' found in star cluster: NASA

Planets Can Form in the Galactic Center

Birth of a planet

A Hot Potential Habitable Exoplanet around Gliese 163

EXO LIFE
Appeals court suspends suit on Google book scanning

Apple gets record 2 million iPhone 5 orders

European industry develops space safety radar

Nano-velcro clasps heavy metal molecules in its grips




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement