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Detecting life in the ultra-dry Atacama Desert

Phys.org/news (APRIL 21, 2017 )

Titre : Detecting life in the ultra-dry Atacama Desert

Few places are as hostile to life as Chile’s Atacama Desert. It’s the driest non-polar desert on Earth, and only the hardiest microbes survive there. Its rocky landscape has lain undisturbed for eons, exposed to extreme temperatures and radiation from the sun.

Phys.org/news (APRIL 21, 2017 )

Présentation
If you can find life here, you might be able to find it in an even harsher environment—like the surface of Mars. That’s why a team of researchers from NASA and several universities visited the Atacama in February. They spent 10 days testing devices that could one day be used to search for signs of life on other worlds. That group included a team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, working on a portable chemistry lab called the Chemical Laptop.

With just a small water sample, the Laptop can check for amino acids, the organic molecules that are widespread in our solar system and considered the building blocks of all life as we know it. Liquid-based analysis techniques have been shown to be orders of magnitude more sensitive than gas-based methods for the same kinds of samples. But when you scoop up a sample from Mars, the amino acids you’re looking for will be trapped inside of or chemically bonded to minerals.

To break down those bonds, JPL has designed another piece of technology, a subcritical water extractor that would act as the "front end" for the Laptop. This extractor uses water to release the amino acids from a soil sample, leaving them ready to be analyzed by the Chemical Laptop.

Source  : Andrew Good, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Annonce (Phys.org/news)

Page publiée le 27 juin 2021