Amidst failed landings and other efforts of finding traces of life on Mars, NASA has come up with a device that should help sniff out any possible life forms.
The idea of detecting different substances based on their smell is not unheard of as just recently a team of scientists managed to grow spinach plants which are capable of sniffing out chemicals.
Still, the idea of smelling for life forms may seem quite odd in the beginning, but according to NASA scientists, also quite useful.
The idea was the brainchild of Branimir Blagojevic and his team who, after observing the U.S. military sensors used so as to detect dangerous toxins and chemicals, decided to adapt it for their mission.
The team repurposed the current idea and transformed the technology so as to be able to scan for “biosignatures”, the so-called signs of life.
If the current instrument were to reach the Martian terrain, it could use its specialized designed technology so as to sniff out large areas of the planet’s dust.
The instrument, which came to be called The Bio-Indicator Lidar Instrument, has a similar base technology to that of a radar. The Lidar can cast out a light sensor that searches for and identifies the composition of the atmospheric dust particles.
As the sensor detects dust particles, it generates an ultraviolet light which scans them and causes the appearance of a fluorescence.
By analyzing this result, the researchers’ team could come to discover the existence of life matter in the respective dust, and also potentially estimate the period of its appearance.
A light-based technique has already been used by scientists here on Earth so as to analyze different types of molecules. Also, just recently, the Curiosity mission used its laser technology in order to study a strange iron meteorite.
The Lidar Bio-Indicator could come to represent a useful tool in the analysis of the Mars as it would come to join the already existing technology.
However, scientists admit that its ability to sniff out a large area from a far away location could also lead to mixed results as the possibility of contamination with terrain from another area is quite high.
As such, the team considers that their technology could come to be an invaluable instrument in the collaboration with another, more sensitive similar device that would have a smaller range.
The current instrument does also present another invaluable asset, that is its ability to function just on electricity.
This would make it possible to sniff out large, distanced areas, and also to attach it to an already existing rover. To this purpose, Blagojevic declared that his team is now working on making the instrument smaller and more resistant.
According to the same Blagojevic, if NASA were to start using the technology, it would mark the first ever fluorescence technique-based instrument used so as to sniff out life forms.
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