Laboratory simulation to support the search for organic molecules at the surface of Mars

Abstract : The search for organic carbon at the surface of Mars, as clues of past habitability or remnants of life, is a major science goal of Mars’ exploration. Understanding the chemical evolution of organic molecules under current Martian environmental conditions is essential to support the analyses performed in situ. What molecule can be preserved? What is the timescale of organic evolution at the surface? Here we present results of laboratory investigations dedicated to monitor qualitative and quantitative evolutions of several organic molecules under simulated Martian surface ultraviolet incident light, mean ground temperature and pressure, using the Mars Organic Molecules Irradiation and Evolution setup (1) . For each organic molecule studied, the nature of the evolution products (solid or gaseous) and the kinetic parameters (extrapolated half-life at Mars, quantum yields) were experimentally determined. The results show that when exposed to UV radiation, specific organic molecules lead to the formation of solid residues, probably of macromolecular nature, which could reach long term stability. On the other hand, the study of the evolution of molecules in presence of nontronite, a clay mineral detected at the surface of Mars, highlights a strong protective effect of the clay reducing dissociation rates for some molecules, whereas a possible catalytic effect is tentatively observed for one studied molecule. These results are essential to support the analyses performed in situ during the past, current and future exploration missions. Moreover, the experimentally determined kinetic parameters provide new inputs for numerical modeling of current reservoirs of organic molecules on Mars. (1) O. Poch et al., Planetary and Space Science 85, 188-197, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pss.2013.06.013
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Submitted on : Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - 9:32:17 AM
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Olivier Poch, Cyril Szopa, Patrice Coll, Maguy Jaber, Thomas Georgelin, et al.. Laboratory simulation to support the search for organic molecules at the surface of Mars. 40th COSPAR Scientific Assembly, Aug 2014, Moscow, Russia. pp.Abstract B0.2-25-14. ⟨insu-01148653⟩

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