SciAps LIBS helps scientists prepare for Mars

August 20, 2021

SciAps Z-903 LIBS analyzer joins Hawai‘i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation with scientist Sarafina Nance on their Mars simulation mission August 13-27, 2021. For updates on the mission in real time, follow @HI-SEAS on Twitter.

HI-SEAS is a Mars and moon exploration analog research station, currently operated by the International MoonBase Alliance. Sarafina Nance is an astrophysicist, science communicator, author, and women’s health advocate. As part of a program to simulate rigorous geological field work aligned with NASA’s planetary exploration expectations, Nance will be using SciAps handheld LIBS (laser induced breakdown spectroscopy) to analyze the elemental composition of xenoliths and the elemental abundances of pahoehoe and then correlate them with supernovae.

Located approximately 8,200 feet above sea level, the HI-SEAS habitat is a 1,200 square foot dome located on a Mars-like site along the Mauna Loa mountain range on Hawaii Island. HI-SEAS has been the home to five long-duration (4 to 12 month) NASA Mars simulation missions.

“I’ve dreamt of going to space ever since I was a little girl. (With this mission), I’m taking a giant step towards that goal,”  Nance announced on Twitter. “With a crew of 6, we’ll go on spacewalks, experience a Martian ‘time delay’ of 20 minutes for all comms, and conduct astronomical and geological research.”

In 2019, SciAps Z-300 provided quantitative measurements of the elemental compositions of rocks in a lunar simulation with Matthew Svensson and the CanMoon team lead by Dr. Gordon Osinski and Dr. Ed Cloutis in the remote, volcanic landscape of Lanzarote, Spain.

“We used the SciAps LIBS to simulate what LIBS on a real rover would do and what kind of data it would return,” says Svensson, who credits SciAps software with uniquely expanding their testing capabilities.

Funded by the Canadian Space Agency, their findings also will be a resource for future space missions.

“It’s really exciting to see where scientists take our handheld LIBS. Our technical team did a great job developing the LIBS to be as flexible as possible in terms of giving the users the power to modify the laser beam, collect spectra, control the focal spot, change the rastering pattern, etc.,” says Don Sackett, CEO and co-founder of SciAps.

Nance is the host of the astronomy show Constellations on Seeker and the author of both "Little Leonardo’s Fascinating World of Astronomy," a children’s book, and "Starstruck," a memoir forthcoming from Dutton press in 2023. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @StarstrickenSF.

SciAps is a rapidly growing company specializing in handheld analytical instruments. State-of-the-art handheld LIBS analyzers for alloys address carbon in steels and stainless, environmental, mining and general analytical applications, specifically those that require measurement of low atomic number elements not accessible by handheld XRF. Complementing the LIBS, SciAps newest X-ray analyzers are the smallest, lightest weight and highest performing handheld XRF units ever created.

For updates on the mission in real time, follow @HI-SEAS on Twitter:

Aug 16: Sol 3: Hi from Mars, where the dust storms are rolling in and the crew is dreaming of successful EVAs (spacewalks).

Aug 17: On future EVAs, @elishainspace will use a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to survey the subsurface. @starstrickenSF will use a Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) to measure elemental abundances & correlate them with supernovae

Aug. 19: The geophysics: @starstrickenSF used the LIBS to measure the elemental abundances of pahoehoe.

Aug 19: Sol 6: Geophysics on Mars. (FINALLY!) Science Communication Officer @starstrickenSF Crew Operations Officer @elishainspace and Engineering Officer @teachonthemoon were finally able to do some science on Mars!!

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