Rovers may have limited ability to detect biomolecules on Mars' surface -study

Scientists exposed seven biomolecules for about 15 months to a simulated environment similar to Mars outside of the International Space Station.

 EXPOSE-R2 platform installed outside of the ISS with BIOMEX experiment. (photo credit: DLR)
EXPOSE-R2 platform installed outside of the ISS with BIOMEX experiment.
(photo credit: DLR)

Rovers are reportedly less capable of detecting biomolecules that were exposed to Martian ultraviolet radiation.

The study saw two rover missions that were sent to Mars to detect biomolecules as a sign of extinct or extant life on the planet, the study said.

The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Science Advances, used a tool called Raman spectrometers, but researchers could not fully rely on the instrument as "there are many unknowns about the stability of Raman-detectable biomolecules in the martian environment, clouding the interpretation of the results." 

Scientists exposed seven biomolecules for around 15 months to a simulated environment akin to Mars outside of the International Space Station. The signals of the Raman spectrometers were strongly changed by Ultraviolet radiation but "only minor change was observed when samples were shielded" from it.

Why is this important?

The research conducted will be able to assist in searching for biosignatures in the Martian subsurface during operations on the planet, as well as present how biomolecules can be detected.

 Sample disintegration at DLR Cologne after space exposure. (credit: DLR) Sample disintegration at DLR Cologne after space exposure. (credit: DLR)

Scientists are planning to use their findings as "groundwork for a consolidated space-proven database of spectroscopy biosignatures in targeted environments."