Challenges 2014, 5(2), 213-223; doi:10.3390/challe5020213

Planetary Atmosphere and Surfaces Chamber (PASC): A Platform to Address Various Challenges in Astrobiology

Received: 30 June 2014; in revised form: 29 July 2014 / Accepted: 30 July 2014 / Published: 8 August 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Challenges in Astrobiology)
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Abstract: The study of planetary environments of astrobiological interest has become a major challenge. Because of the obvious technical and economical limitations on in situ planetary exploration, laboratory simulations are one of the most feasible research options to make advances both in planetary science and in developing a consistent description of the origin of life. With this objective in mind, we applied vacuum technology to the design of versatile vacuum chambers devoted to the simulation of planetary atmospheres’ conditions. These vacuum chambers are able to simulate atmospheres and surface temperatures representative of the majority of planetary objects, and they are especially appropriate for studying the physical, chemical and biological changes induced in a particular sample by in situ irradiation or physical parameters in a controlled environment. Vacuum chambers are a promising potential tool in several scientific and technological fields, such as engineering, chemistry, geology and biology. They also offer the possibility of discriminating between the effects of individual physical parameters and selected combinations thereof. The implementation of our vacuum chambers in combination with analytical techniques was specifically developed to make feasible the in situ physico-chemical characterization of samples. Many wide-ranging applications in astrobiology are detailed herein to provide an understanding of the potential and flexibility of these experimental systems. Instruments and engineering technology for space applications could take advantage of our environment-simulation chambers for sensor calibration. Our systems also provide the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the chemical reactivity of molecules on surfaces under different environments, thereby leading to a greater understanding of interface processes in prebiotic chemical reactions and facilitating studies of UV photostability and photochemistry on surfaces. Furthermore, the stability and presence of certain minerals on planetary surfaces and the potential habitability of microorganisms under various planetary environmental conditions can be studied using our apparatus. Therefore, these simulation chambers can address multiple different challenging and multidisciplinary astrobiological studies.
Keywords: astrobiology; vacuum; simulation chambers; Planetary Atmosphere and Surfaces Chamber (PASC); Mars; spectroscopy; planetary exploration; biomolecules; atmospheres and surfaces
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MDPI and ACS Style

Mateo-Marti, E. Planetary Atmosphere and Surfaces Chamber (PASC): A Platform to Address Various Challenges in Astrobiology. Challenges 2014, 5, 213-223.

AMA Style

Mateo-Marti E. Planetary Atmosphere and Surfaces Chamber (PASC): A Platform to Address Various Challenges in Astrobiology. Challenges. 2014; 5(2):213-223.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Mateo-Marti, Eva. 2014. "Planetary Atmosphere and Surfaces Chamber (PASC): A Platform to Address Various Challenges in Astrobiology." Challenges 5, no. 2: 213-223.

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