A Field-Based Cleaning Protocol for Sampling Devices Used in Life-Detection Studies
Eigenbrode, Jennifer, et al. (2009). "A Field-Based Cleaning Protocol for Sampling Devices Used in Life-Detection Studies." Astrobiology 9 5: 455-465
Abstract Analytical approaches to extant and extinct life detection involve molecular detection often at trace levels. Thus, removal of biological materials and other organic molecules from the surfaces of devices used for sampling is essential for ascertaining meaningful results. Organic decontamination to levels consistent with null values on life-detection instruments is particularly challenging at remote field locations where Mars analog field investigations are carried out. Here, we present a seven-step, multi-reagent decontamination method that can be applied to sampling devices while in the field. In situ lipopolysaccharide detection via low-level endotoxin assays and molecular detection via gas chromatography?mass spectrometry were used to test the effectiveness of the decontamination protocol for sampling of glacial ice with a coring device and for sampling of sediments with a rover scoop during deployment at Arctic Mars-analog sites in Svalbard, Norway. Our results indicate that the protocols and detection technique sufficiently remove and detect low levels of molecular constituents necessary for life-detection tests.