Detection of Organics and Bioburden

Grant #: NNX09AE81A
Senior Scientist: Rosalba Bonaccorsi

Through PIDDP and ASTEP funding we are in the process of developing a Raman/UV instrument aimed at remote detection of organic materials on a future Astrobiology mission. Here we propose to test this instrument combination for use as a characterization tool for planetary protection astrobiology Science Support. In particular we propose to:

1) Test the ability of Raman to detect and characterize microorganisms on spacecraft surfaces in clean-rooms in a rapid, non-contact, manner.

2) Determine the ability of specially prepared surfaces that are known to enhance Raman scattering (SERS) to provide a passive amplification of the Raman signal of any microbial or organic contamination on a spacecraft surface.

3) Construct a rover “scoop” with a SERS surface and test the ability of the

Raman/Microbiology field instruments to detect microorganisms on the surface during field tests in the Mojave Desert; and

4) Apply the above methods to the issue of organic detection in mineralogical Mars Analogs from the Death Valley.

This Research will be conducted in collaboration with Research Scientists at NASA Ames. The proposed work is directly relevant to the Planetary Protection goal of: “The development or adaptation of modern molecular analytical methods to rapidly detect, classify, and/or enumerate the widest possible spectrum of Earth microbes carried by spacecraft (on surfaces and/or in bulk materials, especially at low densities) before, during, and after assembly and launch processing. Of particular interest are methods capable of identifying microbes capable of surviving spacecraft flight or planetary environmental conditions …”