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Abstract No.: L5
Speaker: Jack Beauchamp
Session: Plenary Lecture L5
Presentation date: Fri, Sep 1, 2006
Presentation time: 09:00 – 09:50

Probing our Origins: The Expanding Role of Mass Spectrometry for Laboratory Simulations and In situ Exploration of Space Environments

Jack Beauchamp1

1 California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, United States

Correspondence address: Jack Beauchamp, California Institute of Technology, Department of Chemistry, Noyes Laboratory 127-72, Pasadena, CA, 91125 United States.

Web site: http://www.jlb.caltech.edu

Keywords: Cluster Formation; Collision(s), Surface; Instrumentation; Ionization; Mass Spectrometry; Mixture Analysis; Sampling.

New instruments and methods are providing an expanding role for mass spectrometry for in situ exploration of space environments. Ranging from elemental analysis of high velocity cosmic dust particles to probing the composition and evolution of complex organic molecules on Titan, these studies are providing clues essential to understanding phenomenon ranging from stellar and planetary formation to the origin of life. Three important elements contribute to the success of these studies. Most important are laboratory simulations, in which conditions of the space environment are replicated as closely as possible to permit fundamental scientific investigations and modeling of the targeted space environment. Second is the development and testing of novel instrumentation designed specifically for the mission. Instruments must be designed to withstand the rigors of multiyear spaceflight, from launch through deployment. Third are the actual in situ measurements themselves, where protocols for sample acquisition and analysis must be carefully developed, and instruments must operate nearly autonomously for extended periods of time in harsh environments.

This presentation will provide an overview of studies in which mass spectrometry is being employed for in situ exploration of space environments, with detailed examples being taken from collaborative studies in which our laboratory is involved. These include the analysis of cosmic dust and cometary debris using impact ionization, detailed investigations of the rich organic chemistry of Titan in relation to results provided by ongoing Cassini-Huygens mission, and recent studies that provide evidence that nanoparticles may have played an important role in prebiotic chemistry leading to the origin of life. Several examples will be given of the advanced planning for future robotic exploration of our solar system where mass spectrometry will play an important role.