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#1 2019-08-31 17:58:41

Oldfart1939
Member
Registered: 2016-11-26
Posts: 1,796

Building a Mars research laboratory.

This is NOT a trivial topic to approach. The search for life by remote sensors has done about all that is possible without a wet chemistry lab to support these efforts. Robotics can only do dry sample testing and that from methods involving thermal decomposition of samples or remote sensing. I'm going to start this list by introducing 4 instruments which I believe are absolutely essential for further investigations.
(1) HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatograph); can be used to separate actual compounds found in Mars regolith, and isolate materials of organic origin. Looking for evidence of amino acids and carbohydrates; detection needs to be accomplished by uv absorbance and also by means of refractive index.
(2) GLC (Gas Liquid chromatograph) ; used to isolate/separate out volatiles from compounds with low vapor pressures. Specific for organic molecules (Carbon containing compounds).
(3) Spectropolarimeter; used to determine whether any amino acids found in regolith have optical activity; none found with optical activity would indicate abiological syntheses by Miller-Urey pathways.
(4) Binocular microscope; examination of possible bacteria or other microorganisms. 

Feel free to expand this list of essential laboratory instrumentation. Hoping that Rob enters discussion.

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#2 2019-08-31 18:59:06

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,333

Re: Building a Mars research laboratory.

If you are talking about human missions, then I presume we will have to have some severe protocols to separate humans from any specimens taken on the basis that we don't know whether they might be disease causing.

We're probably talking about getting specimens into sealed bags that are then placed in a sealed container and only opened in a specialist science hab after being placed in a second sealed container and only observed remotely with an air barrier between the specimens and humans.

Could be quite complicated setting all that up.

Oldfart1939 wrote:

This is NOT a trivial topic to approach. The search for life by remote sensors has done about all that is possible without a wet chemistry lab to support these efforts. Robotics can only do dry sample testing and that from methods involving thermal decomposition of samples or remote sensing. I'm going to start this list by introducing 4 instruments which I believe are absolutely essential for further investigations.
(1) HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatograph); can be used to separate actual compounds found in Mars regolith, and isolate materials of organic origin. Looking for evidence of amino acids and carbohydrates; detection needs to be accomplished by uv absorbance and also by means of refractive index.
(2) GLC (Gas Liquid chromatograph) ; used to isolate/separate out volatiles from compounds with low vapor pressures. Specific for organic molecules (Carbon containing compounds).
(3) Spectropolarimeter; used to determine whether any amino acids found in regolith have optical activity; none found with optical activity would indicate abiological syntheses by Miller-Urey pathways.
(4) Binocular microscope; examination of possible bacteria or other microorganisms. 

Feel free to expand this list of essential laboratory instrumentation. Hoping that Rob enters discussion.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#3 2019-08-31 19:04:03

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 17,382

Re: Building a Mars research laboratory.

One thing that makes a lab for mars is being mobile to get samples. We know that the current state of robotics to do so are quite slow and being able to create a lab with the abilities above means its not all that mobile. The lab its self would need to be nuclear powered even with slow robotic sample fetchers.

The question I have would be for the internal workings of the lab as to whether its at mars pressures or something higher as this changes the design. One would also build in air lock like features to allow for multiple sample testing and not allowing cross contamination by making it compartmental.

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#4 2019-08-31 21:12:54

Oldfart1939
Member
Registered: 2016-11-26
Posts: 1,796

Re: Building a Mars research laboratory.

I'm strictly discussing a manned by humans laboratory. The chances of finding a disease inducing organism are remote. Earth diseases are species specific; as Robert Zubrin states--no man has ever contracted Dutch Elm Disease. No tree has ever died of pneumonia. There is a host-bacterial relationship.

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#5 2019-08-31 21:30:24

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 17,382

Re: Building a Mars research laboratory.

kbd512 wrote:

Oldfart1939,

The only instrument required to detect any life presently on Mars is a microscope.  If something's moving around in the samples of the regolith or water collected, that would be what we call "life".

No humans required at all if we have a camera mount to it...

But I get where a human mission and tools speeds up the process as we can see it first hand.

Coring and samples are given a brisk transport by man back to the large lab for analysis and testing.

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#6 2019-09-01 05:30:28

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,333

Re: Building a Mars research laboratory.

Oldfart -

Think you are being too cavalier there. Cross species transmission is the principal source of new diseases in humans:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-spe … ansmission.

Even plants can represent a hazard:

"However, some plant pathogens may be able to infect humans as well as plants, and those that do tend to be "opportunistic pathogens," especially on a segment of the population at risk."

https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/ … eople-sick

While I see no harm in Mars Mission crew studying washed minerals hands on, anything suspected of being organic should be handled carefully would be my view until we can understand its nature.


Oldfart1939 wrote:

I'm strictly discussing a manned by humans laboratory. The chances of finding a disease inducing organism are remote. Earth diseases are species specific; as Robert Zubrin states--no man has ever contracted Dutch Elm Disease. No tree has ever died of pneumonia. There is a host-bacterial relationship.

Last edited by louis (2019-09-01 19:32:41)


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#7 2019-09-01 10:41:40

Oldfart1939
Member
Registered: 2016-11-26
Posts: 1,796

Re: Building a Mars research laboratory.

You should read--or re-read--Robert Zubrin's comments in that regard. Specifically in "Entering Space." I'm not saying we should abandon GLP techniques, but fears mongering movies, such as Andromeda Strain, should be heavily discounted.

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#8 2019-09-01 19:35:19

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,333

Re: Building a Mars research laboratory.

I agree no one should be fear-mongering. But when humans land on Mars they are landing in the unknown. Even now NASA can't tell us definitively whether there is or isn't life on Mars. For me that urges caution, to protect the first settlers and humanity back on Earth. I think it will take at least 20 years before we can say for sure whether or not there are any biohazards on Mars.

Oldfart1939 wrote:

You should read--or re-read--Robert Zubrin's comments in that regard. Specifically in "Entering Space." I'm not saying we should abandon GLP techniques, but fears mongering movies, such as Andromeda Strain, should be heavily discounted.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#9 2019-09-06 16:25:59

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 17,382

Re: Building a Mars research laboratory.

Unless mars can support life in underground sweet spots we are looking for the remains of past life which would be simular to what we did here on earth with the meteorites and other such pieces that have seem to be from mars.
Which means we are chemically testing, looking for isotopes that are common to mars but not of other places. Elemental matching will show what we will need to know as we search for the outputs of how we tell what is a living essence. Such things as methane source can and will be tested to see if the answer is life or not.
The tells we know but its the know how to get it small enough to fit current landing capability that is the issue until something is more capable but why wait. Send multiple ships and have the pieces assembled on the mars surface....

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