First Detection of Non-Chlorinated Organic Molecules Indigenous to a Martian Sample

Abstract : The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument onboard Curiosity can perform pyrolysis of martian solid samples, and analyze the volatiles by direct mass spectrometry in evolved gas analysis (EGA) mode, or separate the components in the GCMS mode (coupling the gas chromatograph and the mass spectrometer instruments). In addition, SAM has a wet chemistry laboratory designed for the extraction and identification of complex and refractory organic molecules in the solid samples [1]. The chemical derivatization agent used, N-methyl-N-tert-butyldimethylsilyl-trifluoroacetamide (MTBSTFA – Fig. 1), was sealed inside seven Inconel metal cups present in SAM. Although none of these foil-capped derivatization cups have been punctured on Mars for a full wet chemistry experiment, an MTBSTFA leak was detected and the resultant MTBSTFA vapor inside the instrument has been used for a multi-sol MTBSTFA derivatization (MD) procedure instead of direct exposure to MTBSTFA liquid by dropping a solid sample directly into a punctured wet chemistry cup [2]. Pyr-EGA, Pyr-GCMS and Der-GCMS experiments each led to the detection and identification of a variety of organic molecules in diverse formations of Gale Crater.
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Caroline Freissinet, Daniel P. Glavin, Arnaud Buch, Cyril Szopa, Roger E. Summons, et al.. First Detection of Non-Chlorinated Organic Molecules Indigenous to a Martian Sample. 47th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, Mar 2016, The Woodlands, Texas, United States. ⟨insu-01281788⟩

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