36th DPS Meeting, 8-12 November 2004
Session 16 Jovian System
Poster I, Tuesday, November 9, 2004, 4:00-7:00pm, Exhibition Hall 1A

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[16.17] A Proposal Addressing Technological Issues Relevant to an Exobiological and Surface-Science Approach to the Exploration of Europa

D. Alvarez, P. Gerakines, T. Wdowiak (UAB Dept. of Physics)

If Europa is to be of primary exobiological interest, namely, as a habitat for extant life, it is obvious that (a) a hydrosphere must prevail beneath the cryosphere for a long time, (b) internal energy sources must be present in a sufficient state of activity, and (c) a reasonable technical means must be available for assessing if indeed life does exist in the hypothesized hydrosphere. This paper focuses on the last point, namely, technological issues, because the trend of the compounding evidence about Europa indicates that the first two points are likely to be true. We present a consideration of Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption and Ionization (MALDI) time-of-flight mass spectroscopy conducted in situ on the cryosphere surface of Europa during a first landed robotic mission. We assert that this is a reasonable technical means not only for exploring the composition of the cryosphere itself, but also for locating any biomolecular indicators of extant life brought to the surface through cryosphere activity. Further, we present results of science analogous to tests that could be performed on Europa on a test-bed MALDI TOFMS built in our lab as a proof of concept machine for such a mission. Funding for this project came from NASA PIDDP.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 36 #4
© 2004. The American Astronomical Soceity.