Instruments for the search and identification of mineralogical, geochemical and biochemical signatures of biomarkers in the Martian regolith

S  O  L  M
Signs of Life on Mars

Spanish research proposal:

 Announcements of Opportunity for Research Proposals in Life Sciences (EMF)

Research Team

Principal Objectives

Facilities and equipment

Contact address


  Jesús Martínez-Frías (PI)
  Alvaro Giménez
   Antonio Formoso
 Antonio Delgado Huertas
 J.A. Rodríguez-Losada
  J.I. Robla
  J.J. López Moreno
  J.L. García Fierro
   Juan F. Llamas Borrajo
  Pedro Vilarroig
   Rafael Rodrigo Montero
 Ramón Capote del Villar
  Ricardo Amils
 Rosario Lunar Hernández
  Salvador Montero Martín
  Sebastián Vidal Pezzi


ESA announces an opportunity to propose investigations in the field of exobiology to be implemented in a ESA flight proposal   for one of the upcoming NASA Mars Surveyor Program Missions that will aim at in-situ investigations on the martian surface and sub-surface. ESA will provide the basic structure including a drill
system consisting of a drill unit, a sample distribution system and a sample preparation system. The proposed experiments have to demonstrate in-situ investigation capability. New developments are encouraged. The instruments will be part of a facility on a fixed platform.

The aim of the project is to discover, in the Martian regolith, mineralogical, geochemical and biochemical signatures which can be used as indicators of fossil and extant biological activity.

The  proposal attempts to develop instrumentation capable of support the following studies:

a)  establishing the mineral parageneses and their relationships;
b)  determination of the geochemical features of the paragenetic setting, paying special attention to the distribution patterns and ratios of selected elements;
c)  assay the isotopic values and the possible fractionation processes of stable isotopes, and
d)  detection of basic geo-microbiological signs universally found in selected Earth-like environments.


As indicated in the Announcement, the EMF will provide the infrastructure for the scientific instruments: a) mechanical structure to accommodate the scientific instruments; b) payload control sub-system (interface between the scientific instruments and the lander spacecraft); c) power supply sub-system; d) thermal control sub-system for the entire payload including the environmental control of specific instrument compartments; e) drill and sample distribution system; f) communication package/interface.

To perform the studies, the development of miniaturised instrumentation is proposed which includes, besides the integration of a specifically-designed microcamera that is able to work both in the visible and infrared spectra, the following equipment: 1) a laser-based system capable of vaporising the Martian regolith; 2) sensors for the analysis of gases (organic and inorganic compounds), coupled with a Neuro-Fuzzy system for data processing; 3) a permittivity probe to detect, and quantify, the possible presence of traces of water in the regolith, and 4) a compact Raman spectrometer (less than 10 kg in weight) to determine the mineralogical and geochemical characteristics.

Página diseñada y mantenida por Jesús Martínez-Frías, 1999