Redesign, assembly and test procedure of laboratory Mars atmosphere sampling system

The broad interest in exploration of Mars demands instruments to be developed for the preliminary Mars Smart Lander Mission in 2009 by NASA. This report describes the development at the University of Michigan of a laboratory-scale Mars atmospheric sampling system redesigned after an earlier instrument built by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Texas. This sampling system will demonstrate a method for an instrument that measures the composition of Mars’ atmosphere and the isotopic ratios of noble gases in the atmosphere, which tell us about the atmospheric loss processes. The analysis of these measurements will help determine the past and present climate on Mars and its atmospheric evolution. The technique is based on using two concentration modules with gas adsorbing material that scrubs away the gases of no interest like CO2, CO, O2 and water vapor, so that the trace amounts of noble gases can be determined by a mass spectrometer. The adsorbing materials that are used are different kinds of zeolite and one type of non-evaporable getter. Reproducibility of the tests will not only accurately measure the noble gases, it will also determine which zeolite that have the best characteristics and should be used in the future instrument as well as determine the life time of the non-evaporable getter. A short time limit for the project resulted in redesign and an almost complete system that is ready for test. A pressure region in the low 10^-8 mbar was reached several times at pump down of the system before bakeout, which indicate a good vacuum. The mixing procedure for the test gas was developed and the equipment for mixing was assembled. The testing procedure is also developed, but further work needs to be done on the system and the test gas mixed before the tests can be carried out.

Author: Granstrom, Camilla

Source: LuleƄ University of Technology

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