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Enceladus Amino Acid Sampler

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Kirby (Applicant)

Presented is an instrument component concept to concentrate amino acids from ice particles from the plume and jets emanating from the south polar regions of Enceladus or from the Saturn E-ring. The ice particles are theoretically predicted to originate from a briny, liquid, subsurface ocean. Measurement of amino acid chirality is accepted as a key experiment for life detection in the solar system. This instrument concept also addresses Enceladus science objectives to understand icy world satellite evolution, to determine the plume composition and evolution, and to infer the Enceladus subsurface composition and habitability. The analytical instrumentation is based on ion-exchange column materials that show specificity for the amino acid chemical functional group, and have demonstrated concentration enhancement factors of greater than 4 orders of magnitude in the liquid phase. Remote analysis at Enceladus, by concentrating and analyzing trace amino acids from ice particles, would bolster an Enceladus sample return mission, and would be enabling to an Enceladus orbiter, lander or orbilander mission.

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