A system initially developed to check out for poisons, infection, and other bio-hazards may one day come in useful on a Mars rover. NASA technologist Branimir Blagojevic from the Goddard Area Journey Middle is checking out a model of the Bio-Indicator Lidar System, or BILI, which would use laser treatment to check out for the signatures of lifestyle on Mars.
Although there are no existing programs to consist of this instrument on a Mars rover, Blagojevic says that, with financing, the instrument could comprehend release in 5 decades.
“We don’t believe we’ll discover residing creatures on Mars, but if lifestyle was existing, there is the opportunity the finger prints of this previous lifestyle are still on the outer lining,” says Blagojevic. “These are the bio marker elements that this instrument will be able to identify.”
BILI would execute by glowing two ultra violet laser device treatment into Martian dirt plumes. The energy of the ray causes contaminants in the dirt to speak out loud or fluoresce. Different elements make different fluorescence signatures. Those signatures, mixed with information about the size of the contaminants, allows BILI to categorize whether simple natural elements, which could provide signs about past life on Mars, are existing.
Although BILI may not be as accurate at determining actual elements as other equipment, Blagojevic says it could be useful as a study device that can protect a lot of floor easily. Gathering and examining examples is slowly benefit a rover, whereas BILI’s laser device treatment can almost immediately figure out the possibility that an place contains naturally appropriate components. After capturing the local community with the lasers, the rover could trundle up to the most appealing place, gather a example, and execute an in depth research of what’s inside. This way, Blagojevic says, the device could improve the chance of discovering bio molecules.
With its range of several hundred meters, BILI could also search for life signs in places where a rover can’t go, such as the recurring slope linae–the areas on Mars that seep with briny water during Mars’ warm season.
When NASA tested BILI this summer, the instrument was able to discriminate between aerosolized biomolecules and inorganic molecules that aren’t relevant to the search for life. According to Blagojevich’s models, it should work just as well on Mars.
NASA’s next Mars rover launches in 2020, and it’s too late to try to get BILI onto the rover, says Blagojevich. There are no Mars rovers planned beyond 2020, however that’s mostly because NASA scientists still need to sit down and hash out their plans for the next decade. With the “Journey To Mars” gathering momentum and public enthusiasm, the red planet will almost certainly star in those plans. Perhaps BILI will have a role to play, too, whether as an instrument on a rover or as a handheld scanner for manned missions that try to unravel Mars’ past.