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The Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite will weigh about 83 lbs (38 kg), and make up about half the science payload of the Mars Science Laboratory mission to search for carbon-based compounds associated with life.

MDL News & Trends

MDL’s Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) Essential to 2011 Mars Mission

Scheduled to launch in the fall of 2011, the Mars Science Laboratory is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet. The Mars Science Laboratory rover, named "Curiosity", will assess whether Mars ever was, or is still today, an environment able to support microbial life. In other words, its mission is to determine the planet's "habitability." The methane and carbon dioxide measurements provided by the Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) will add essential information needed to answer this fundamental question. The TLS (principal investigator C. R. Webster) in one of three instruments that make up the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) analytical chemistry lab on NASA's 2011 Mars mission. TLS has unprecedented capability for measuring methane, water, and carbon dioxide abundances in the Martian atmosphere and evolved from heated soil samples. In addition, TLS will measure the carbon isotope ratios in both CH4 and CO2, and the oxygen isotope ratios in CO2. Using an interband-cascade and a tunable diode laser, TLS has capability to determine atmospheric methane abundance to 2 percent accuracy and to a lower limit of 1 part-per-trillion with SAM pre- concentration. The instrument and recent test data results will be described in context with the needs for understanding Martian atmospheric and geophysical processes.

To learn more about Tunable Laser Spectrometers (TLS), visit:
http://microdevices.jpl.nasa.gov/capabilities/semiconductor-lasers/tunable-laser-spectrometers.php

To learn more about the Mars Science Laboratory, please visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/index.html
http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/