Sample Analysis at Mars

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sample Analysis at Mars for MSL

Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) is a suite of instruments on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover. The SAM instrument suite will analyze organics and gases from both atmospheric and solid samples.[1][2] It was developed by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the Laboratoire Inter-Universitaire des Systèmes Atmosphériques (LISA) (jointly operated by France's CNRS and Parisian universities), and Honeybee Robotics, along with many additional external partners.[1][3][4]


The SAM Suite

The SAM suite consists of three instruments:

  1. The Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer (QMS) detects gases sampled from the atmosphere or those released from solid samples by heating.[1][5]
  2. The Gas Chromatograph (GC) is used to separate out individual gases from a complex mixture into molecular components. The resulting gas flow is analyzed in the mass spectrometer with a mass range of 2-535 Daltons.[1][5]
  3. The Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) performs precision measurements of oxygen and carbon isotope ratios in carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) in the atmosphere of Mars in order to distinguish between their geochemical or biological origin.[1][4][5][6][7]


The SAM also has three subsystems: the 'Chemical separation and processing laboratory', for enrichment and derivatization of the organic molecules of the sample; the sample manipulation system (SMS) for transporting powder delivered from the MSL drill to a SAM inlet and into one of 74 sample cups.[1] The SMS then moves the sample to the SAM oven to release gases by heating to up to 1000oC;[1][8] and the pumps subsystem to purge the separators and analysers.

Curiosity rover - Spectral Analysis (SAM) of "Cumberland" rock on Mars (9 December 2013).

The Space Physics Research Laboratory at the University of Michigan built the main power supply, command and data handling unit, valve and heater controller, filament/bias controller, and high voltage module. The uncooled infrared detectors were developed and provided by the Polish company VIGO System.[9]


  • 9 November 2012: A pinch of fine sand and dust became the first solid Martian sample deposited into the SAM. The sample came from the patch of windblown material called Rocknest, which had provided a sample previously for mineralogical analysis by CheMin instrument.[10]
  • 3 December 2012: NASA reports SAM has detected water molecules, chlorine and sulphur. Hints of organic compounds couldn't be ruled out as contamination from Curiosity itself, however.[11][12]


Interview with Paul Mahaffy, Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) principal investigator.
Scientists and engineers use the Mars chamber to test specimens on the SAM instrument.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "MSL Science Corner: Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM)". NASA/JPL. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  2. ^ Overview of the SAM instrument suite
  3. ^ Cabane, M.; et al. (2004). "Did life exist on Mars? Search for organic and inorganic signatures, one of the goals for "SAM" (sample analysis at Mars)". Advances in Space Research 33 (12): 2240–2245. Bibcode:2004AdSpR..33.2240C. doi:10.1016/S0273-1177(03)00523-4. 
  4. ^ a b "Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) Instrument Suite". NASA. October 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  5. ^ a b c Mahaffy, Paul R.; et al. (2012). "The Sample Analysis at Mars Investigation and Instrument Suite". Space Science Reviews. Bibcode:2012SSRv..tmp...23M. doi:10.1007/s11214-012-9879-z. 
  6. ^ Tenenbaum, D. (9 June 2008). "Making Sense of Mars Methane". Astrobiology Magazine. Retrieved October 8, 2008. 
  7. ^ Tarsitano, C. G.; Webster, C. R. (2007). "Multilaser Herriott cell for planetary tunable laser spectrometers". Applied Optics 46 (28): 6923–6935. Bibcode:2007ApOpt..46.6923T. doi:10.1364/AO.46.006923. PMID 17906720. 
  8. ^ Kennedy, T.; Mumm, E.; Myrick, T.; Frader-Thompson, S. (2006). "Optimization of a mars sample manipulation system through concentrated functionality". 
  9. ^ Tuesday, 13 December 2011 (2011-12-13). "Vigo System / Vigo IR Detectors on Mars". Retrieved 2012-08-17. 
  10. ^ "Rover's 'SAM' Lab Instrument Suite Tastes Soil". JPL-NASA. 13 November 2012. 
  11. ^ Brown, Dwayne; Webster, Guy; Jones, Nance Neal (December 3, 3012). "NASA Mars Rover Fully Analyzes First Martian Soil Samples". NASA. Retrieved December 3, 201.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  12. ^ "'Complex chemistry' found on Mars". 3 News NZ. December 4, 2012. 

External links[edit]