About this Research Topic
Over recent decades, gas phase-based measurements (such as GC-MS) have often been used as the gold-standard for in situ measurements of acquired samples on planetary exploration missions. However, liquid-based analyses are essential for the future of space exploration, especially with the growing interest in Ocean Worlds, such as Europa and Enceladus, and confirmed water (ice) on both the Moon and Mars. Liquid-based methods are essential because they are often orders of magnitude more sensitive than gas phase-based measurements, and also because there are many water-soluble, putative biomolecules that have the potential to be found on upcoming astrobiology missions. Hence, it makes sense to directly manipulate and analyze these molecules in their natural, liquid environment instead of bringing them into the gas phase, e.g., by pyrolysis, and therefore compromise or even destroy said organic molecules. To enable these liquid-based analyses on future planetary missions (e.g., for a Europa Lander, Enceladus plume sampler, Titan buoy, Comet Lander, and similar), new technologies for acquisition, manipulation, and preparation need to be developed.
Liquid handling and analysis of water will also be a critical factor for future long-term missions on the Moon (e.g., Lunar Gateway) or on the journey to Mars. Monitoring water quality continuously and in real-time will be essential for the survival of future astronauts. The same will apply for in situ resource utilization (ISRU) for crewed as well as robotic missions. The resource (water) will need to be manipulated, potentially treated, and analyzed before consumption or further processing. With the development of the Artemis program, fluidic research platforms engaged in space biology and pharmaceutical science will, more than ever, be needed to study the effects of microgravity, radiation, and similar on mammalian cells and bacteria (e.g., in bioreactors used for ISRU of energy, oxygen, biopolymers, and food). These platforms require liquid-handling and increasingly complex fluidic operations and analysis methods that function well in the rigors of space.
Potential topics include but are not limited to the development of technologies for the following applications:
• Handling, preparation and liquid-based analyses of fluidic samples in space
• Manipulation, treatment and analyses of water for space crew consumption
- Space biology techniques utilizing liquid analyses
- Liquid-based pharmaceutical techniques in zero gravity environments
- Real time continuous water monitoring in space
- Liquid analyses methods for Ocean Worlds
Keywords: liquid handling, fluidics, Ocean Worlds, liquid-phase analysis, ISRU
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