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Launch of the "Sample Analysis at Mars" experiment

  • Space

On November 26, 2011, Mars Science Laboratory’s rover Curiosity took off to look for fossil evidence of past life on the Red Planet. It carries onboard Sample Analysis at Mars, a project in which Air Liquide has been involved since 2005.

Back in 2005, Air Liquide Advanced Technologies was offered to join the SAM_GC (Gas Chromatograph) project, one of the three instruments of the SAM Suite. Once arrived on Mars, the goal of this instrument is to reveal organic compounds and water, as well as isotopes and oxidizing agents. SAM_GC’s objective mainly is to analyse and identify the organic and inorganic molecules collected by Curiosity.

Project manager David COSCIA (LATMOS) initiated this collaboration, which led space department teams – orbital systems – to implement in a different context a unique know-how gained during Planck’s mission, in particular the welding and brazing of fine capillaries tubes on SAM_GC detectors by Dominique CHAZOT (Air Liquide Advanced Technologies), development technician. A similar work was performed on one of the instruments of the PHOBOS probe, launched on November 8, 2011.

Paul MAHAFFY (GSFC – NASA) supervises all SAM instruments, while Michel CABANE (LATMOS) and Patrice COLL (LISA) lead the French contribution, under the management of the CNES.

The rover Curiosity and SAM are expected to land on Mars on August 5, 2012. Air Liquide Advanced Technologies is already involved in the Mars Organic Molecule Analyser Gas Chromatograph (MOMA_GC) instrument that aims at detecting organic and inorganic molecules linked to any biological activity. The definition of an engineering model is currently underway for this experiment, which is expected to be launched in 2016.

Air Liquide’s contribution to such projects confirms once again the Group’s role as a historic partner of the space adventure.

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