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Proceedings Paper

A lunar-based analytical laboratory and contamination problems in analysis of Moon and Mars samples
Author(s): Charles W. Gehrke
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Paper Abstract

A summary follows of our experiences and techniques used in the analysis of samples from Apollo Missions 11 to 17. The studies were conducted at the Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, and the University of Maryland, College Park, MD, 1969 - 1974. Our search was directed to water-extractable compounds with emphasis on amino acids. Gas chromatography, ion-exchange chromatography and gas chromatography combined with mass spectrometry were used for the analysis. It is our conclusion that amino acids are not present in the lunar regolith above the background levels of our investigation (ca. 1 - 3 ng/g). The scientific debate has become heated that primitive life existed on Mars 3.6 billion years ago as reported by the NASA-Stanford team led to David McKay. Mars is destined to receive humans early in the 21st Century, preceded by many international missions to Space Station Freedom and robotic missions to the Moon and Mars. First, we must `learn to live in space'. The Moon presents a base that provides the opportunities and challenges to assemble the international interdisciplinary intellectual scientific teams and partners with many disciplines to make the next step before human exploration of Mars and the search for evidence in Martian soil and samples returned to Earth laboratories. Our experiences learned in Moon analysis will be useful in Mars exploration and returned sample study. Sensitivity at the nanogram/gram level and selectivity of analysis are highly essential. As these figures show contamination of samples is a most serious problem. However with the use of ultraclean techniques in a 100 clean room contamination can be avoided. Our speck of dust, a tiny fragment of cigarette smoke, a particle of dandruff, a droplet of saliva, all can make your results questionable. In addition, the extraction of life molecules as amino acids from the Lunar samples was a difficult process and I am sure the same difficulties exist with handling and removing the very low levels of amino acids from Mars meteorites and returned samples.

Paper Details

Date Published: 11 July 1997
PDF: 12 pages
Proc. SPIE 3111, Instruments, Methods, and Missions for the Investigation of Extraterrestrial Microorganisms, (11 July 1997); doi: 10.1117/12.278784
Show Author Affiliations
Charles W. Gehrke, Univ. of Missouri/Columbia (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 3111:
Instruments, Methods, and Missions for the Investigation of Extraterrestrial Microorganisms
Richard B. Hoover, Editor(s)

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