In situ analysis of martian regolith with the SAM experiment during the first mars year of the MSL mission: Identification of organic molecules by gas chromatography from laboratory measurements

Abstract : The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument onboard the Curiosity rover, is specifically designed for in situ molecular and isotopic analyses of martian surface materials and atmosphere. It contributes to the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) missions primary scientific goal to characterize the potential past, present or future habitability of Mars. In all of the analyses of solid samples delivered to SAM so far, chlorinated organic compounds have been detected above instrument background levels and identified by gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC–MS) (Freissinet et al., 2015; Glavin et al., 2013). While some of these may originate from reactions between oxychlorines and terrestrial organic carbon present in the instrument background (Glavin et al., 2013), others have been demonstrated to originate from indigenous organic carbon present in samples (Freissinet et al., 2015). We present here laboratory calibrations that focused on the analyses performed with the MXT-CLP GC column (SAM GC-5 channel) used for nearly all of the GC–MS analyses of the martian soil samples carried out with SAM to date. Complementary to the mass spectrometric data, gas chromatography allows us to separate and identify the species analyzable in a nominal SAM-GC run time of about 21 min. To characterize the analytical capabilities of this channel within the SAM Flight Model (FM) operating conditions on Mars, and their implications on the detection of organic matter, it is required to perform laboratory experimental tests and calibrations on spare model components. This work assesses the SAM flight GC-5 column efficiency, confirms the identification of the molecules based on their retention time, and enables a better understanding of the behavior of the SAM injection trap (IT) and its release of organic molecules. This work will enable further optimization of the SAM-GC runs for additional samples to be analyzed during the MSL mission.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 10:45:24 AM
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Maeva Millan, Cyril Szopa, Arnaud Buch, Patrice Coll, Daniel P. Glavin, et al.. In situ analysis of martian regolith with the SAM experiment during the first mars year of the MSL mission: Identification of organic molecules by gas chromatography from laboratory measurements. Planetary and Space Science, Elsevier, 2016, 129, pp.88-102. ⟨10.1016/j.pss.2016.06.007⟩. ⟨insu-01333652⟩

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