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Detecting the elemental and molecular signatures of life: Laser-based mass spectrometry technologies ( A whitepaper written for the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023–2032 of the National Academy of Sciences)

Abstract : The identification of extraterrestrial life is one the most exciting and challenging endeavors in space research. The existence of extinct or extant life can be inferred from biogenic elements, isotopes, and molecules, but accurate and sensitive instru- ments are needed to detect these species. In this whitepaper we show that Laser- based Mass Spectrometers are promising instrument for the in situ identification of atomic, isotopic, and molecular biosignatures. An overview of Laser abla- tion/Ionization Mass Spectrometry (LIMS) and Laser Desorption/Ionization Mass Spectrometry (LD-MS) instruments developed for space exploration is given. Their uses are discussed in the context of a Mars scenario and an Europa scenario. We show that Laser-based Mass Spectrometers are versatile and technologically ma- ture instruments with many beneficial characteristics for the detection of life. Fu- ture planetary lander and rover missions should be encouraged to make use of Laser-based Mass Spectrometry instruments in their scientific payload.
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Submitted on : Sunday, September 13, 2020 - 8:59:10 AM
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Niels F.W. Ligterink, Andreas Riedo, Marek Tulej, Rustam Lukmanov, Valentine Grimaudo, et al.. Detecting the elemental and molecular signatures of life: Laser-based mass spectrometry technologies ( A whitepaper written for the Planetary Science and Astrobiology Decadal Survey 2023–2032 of the National Academy of Sciences). 2020. ⟨insu-02937120⟩

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