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Investigation into the in situ detection of organic compounds by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry in the context of martian surface missions

Melissa Guzman 1, *
* Corresponding author
LATMOS - Laboratoire Atmosphères, Milieux, Observations Spatiales
Abstract : The question of if terrestrial life is alone in the universe is a philosophical and scientific question that has captivated humanity since ancient times. This thesis approaches its science and technical questions from the idea that life is composed of, and generates, organic matter. This thesis focuses on the search for organic matter on the surface of Mars by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) onboard the Viking Lander, the future ExoMars Mars Organic Molecule Analyser (MOMA) experiment, and with applications to the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) experiment onboard the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). In this thesis, the Viking GC-MS data sets have been reexamined and evidence is presented for the presence of chlorobenzene, a potential reaction product of martian carbon and martian chlorine during pyrolysis. The performance of the ExoMars MOMA integrated chromatographic system is assessed by experiments carried out with a laboratory setup that reproduces the flight configuration and mimics in situ operating conditions. Results demonstrate the ability of the GC subsystem to identify a wide range of organic and inorganic volatile compounds, including biomolecular signatures, within the constrained operating conditions of MOMA. Next, the MOMA GC-MS pyrolysis and wet chemistry protocol is explored with a more complex set of samples in which organic compounds are adsorbed to amontmorillonite mineral matrix across concentrations and with or without the addition of magnesium perchlorate. This study shows that the MOMA GC-MS package enables detection of each target organic molecule or its products in the presence of the clay mineral. Finally, perspectives are presented on the specific complexities to more complex natural samples (e.g., suites of species, trace organics) and to space experimentation (e.g., complex gas processing systems, adsorption/desorption trapping) that can present unique challenges for Mars surface experiments in the strict identification of target compounds such as amino acids. The results presented in this thesis reevaluate the interpretation of past Mars GC-MS mission data and will collectively aid in the implementation of Mars surface operations and the interpretation of potential data obtained by ExoMars’s MOMA experiment. In addition, this thesis offers results and discussion that can be applied to the interpretation of the SAM GC-MS analysis currently operating on Mars.
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Submitted on : Thursday, September 2, 2021 - 4:53:12 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 11, 2022 - 2:14:21 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Friday, December 3, 2021 - 8:57:20 PM


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  • HAL Id : tel-03332443, version 1


Melissa Guzman. Investigation into the in situ detection of organic compounds by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry in the context of martian surface missions. Other. Université Paris-Saclay, 2020. English. ⟨NNT : 2020UPASP100⟩. ⟨tel-03332443⟩



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