NASA is carrying out a life-detection drill in a desert in Chile, which will help monitor the possibility of life on the dry and red planet “Mars”.
The Atacama Desert is a perfect drilling ground for the researches due to its harsh environment — less water and high UV radiation. A team of 20 researchers have been working over the project for a month now.
Under the Atacama Rover Astrobiology Drilling Studies (ARADS) project, NASA researchers are finding ways to deploy a series of instruments for research. They are working on a robot device that will dig out the organic molecules known as biomarkers. It will monitor the areas having high probability of microbial life.
“Putting life-detection instruments in a difficult, Mars-analogue environment will help us figure out the best ways of looking for past or current life on Mars, if it existed,”said the project’s principal investigator, Brian Glass, in a report by NASA.
“Having both subsurface reach and surface mobility should greatly increase the number of biomarker and life-target sites we can sample in the Atacama.”
While the team has taken its first step to assess the drill, the researchers are pulling up various technologies to back the project. Some preliminary versions include a drill, a sample transfer arm, the Signs of Life Detector (SOLID), and the Wet Chemistry Lab (WCL), according to Science Alert. These prototypes will investigate about microbial life on the surface of Mars.
NASA‘s ARADS drill aims to scoop out the soil samples. The sample transfer arm will feed them to SOLID and WCL. And then the collected samples will be sent to the lab for analysis, reports Daily Mail.
The researchers are studying the microbial life in the desert for practice so they can go on with their plan of sending the robotic devices to Mars. Moreover, the group is working on to extract underground colonies of microorganisms from “inside rocks”.
It will take four years to figure out the new systems. The aim of the project is to examine and find the potential of instruments before sending them to Mars.