NASA Develops New Instrument To Sniff For Signs Of Life On Mars

Posted: Nov 2 2016, 5:32am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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NASA Develops New Instrument to Sniff for Signs of Life on Mars
This artist’s rendition shows how a proposed laser-fluorescence instrument could operate on Mars. Credits: NASA
  • NASA Constructs Bio-Indicator Lidar Instrument (BILI) That Could Sniff for Signs of Life on Mars

NASA has constructed a novel probe to detect any signs of life on Mars. It is laser-based and will sniff out any life forms on the Red Planet.

NASA is working on an advanced version of an instrument that has been used extensively by the US military. The military has employed it to sniff out chemicals and toxins in the air. The “tech toy” that NASA will build is going to be able to detect any signs of life on Mars. It may also later on be used for other sites in the solar system.

A prototype of the instrument has already been manufactured. This contains remote sensing technology that can sniff out any bio-hazards that exist in the environment.

Termed BILI, it is a fluorescence-based lidar. This belongs to the same category as radars. However, instead of utilizing radio waves, light is employed to detect and analyze the particles of a particular substance in the atmosphere.

While NASA has already used such instruments on earth, it has yet to employ them in the context of another planet. This will be the first time such instruments will be used outside the confines of the earth.

In the capacity of an exploration tool, BILI is like a rover in many ways. It has a nose-like feature that can sniff out the signs of life on Mars. Situated on a mast, BILI would scan the entire surface of Mars for dust storms.

Once it has detected these, it would use ultraviolet lasers to send pulsating rays of light at the dust storms. This will cause resonance and fluorescence.

By analyzing the results, scientists could tell whether the dust contains organic molecules from not so long ago. Also the dimensions of the dust particles could be known with certainty.

If there are any bio-signatures or signs of life, they will be immediately detected. The BILI rover could traverse all sorts of terrain including slopes, valleys and mountains on Mars in order to detect any signs of life.

BILI could also be used in conjunction with other super-sensitive instruments such as spectrometers that will help in the analysis of the dust at various sites on Mars.

This tool was a long time in the making. Now humanity will have an up close and personal view of the sort of organic stuff that is present in the dust of Mars.

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