In search of tiny pieces of life on Mars, NASA scientists hope to follow a mechanical nose.
This is a far cry from schnozz on your or my face, but rather a sensing laser sensor that the military has used to detect biological threats.
On Tuesday, a research team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland announced that they will adjust sensors for future missions on Mars and elsewhere in the solar system.
Based on the military technology of the United States Department of Defense and biological confrontation detection system, the machine cannot directly confirm the existence of organisms.
Instead, as we know, it is able to search for amino acids and other organic molecules needed by organisms in the environment.
Since it will not be used to detect reproductive warfare or traces of chemical weapons in space, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center renamed the device Bio-
The space center compares the tool to the smell of Mars rover, as if NASA were shipping a hound to the red planet. (
See also: European Mars probe ExoMars was destroyed after falling into the ground)
"NASA has never used it for planetary ground exploration before," said Branimir Blagojevic, a NASA technical expert who has previously worked in the private sector to create creatures.
Indicator device in press release. "If the bio-
"There are signatures on Mars, which means organic traces that can be detected in dust," he said . ".
"As it says in the name, the tool requires lidar to operate.
For unfamiliar people, lidar is the second cousin of active radar.
Where the radar generates radio waves, the lidar uses laser pulses
In other words, light;
The name itself is the initials acronym for light detection and ranging.
The principles of lidar and radar systems are the same.
The device sends out a signal that is reflected from the target and returned to the receiver.
The machine then explains what the object is based on the way the signal bounces. (
Perhaps for this instrument, the Echo-targeting bat would be better than the Hound. )
The root of the lidar is the laser sensor in 1970s and 60.
The technology has a wide range of applications.
Self-driving car companies like Google are evaluating self-help lidar
Drive a car to sense and avoid obstacles.
NASA also uses lidar.
An aircraft equipped to observe atmospheric chemistry.
The lidar system announced the launch of ultraviolet laser pulses on Tuesday.
The tiny wavelength of the beam is impossible to see, but it is ideal for rebounding from particles.
When they hit a molecule, the ultraviolet pulse stimulates the electron of the particle.
The degree of interference of the laser makes the electron illuminate the size and age of the particle in turn.
If the lidar system reaches Mars, it will not be the first laser sensor to launch into the red planet. For four-and-a-
Until 2001, NASA's Mars orbiter, the laser altitude meter, drew a map of the planet as it flew over Mars's craters, hills and valleys.
Curiosity rover active on Mars uses a laser to detect the amount of Mars rock.
Curiosity also has a small shovel on board to collect and analyze the soil.
While it can peek into the depths of these small lumps, using a lidar system reduces power
While providing a wider range of land, it is intensive.
As Blagojevic said, "This is a measuring instrument that has a keen sense of smell on certain molecules.
"Researchers have not said when NASA plans to use the lidar system, but are currently testing the instrument on Earth, making it even more solid to survive in the harsh environment of Mars.
Although the space agency is preparing to send another rover to Mars in the summer of 2020, Goddard did not recommend including lidar tools.
Blagojevic and his colleagues suggested in a proposal that the system would help potential Icebreaker Life tasks in which the rover would explore frozen