Author(s): Kounaves SP, Lukow SR, Comeau BP, Hecht MH, GrannanFeldman SM,
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Abstract The Mars Environmental Compatibility Assessment (MECA) instrument was designed, built, and flight qualified for the now canceled MSP (Mars Surveyor Program) '01 Lander. The MECA package consisted of a microscope, electrometer, material patch plates, and a wet chemistry laboratory (WCL). The primary goal of MECA was to analyze the Martian soil (regolith) for possible hazards to future astronauts and to provide a better understanding of Martian regolith geochemistry. The purpose of the WCL was to analyze for a range of soluble ionic chemical species and electrochemical parameters. The heart of the WCL was a sensor array of electrochemically based ion-selective electrodes (ISE). After 20 months storage at -23 degrees C and subsequent extended freeze/thawing cycles, WCL sensors were evaluated to determine both their physical durability and analytical responses. A fractional factorial calibration of the sensors was used to obtain slope, intercept, and all necessary selectivity coefficients simultaneously for selected ISEs. This calibration was used to model five cation and three anion sensors. These data were subsequently used to determine concentrations of several ions in two soil leachate simulants (based on terrestrial seawater and hypothesized Mars brine) and four actual soil samples. The WCL results were compared to simulant and soil samples using ion chromatography and inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy. The results showed that flight qualification and prolonged low-temperature storage conditions had minimal effects on the sensors. In addition, the analytical optimization method provided quantitative and qualitative data that could be used to accurately identify the chemical composition of the simulants and soils. The WCL has the ability to provide data that can be used to "read" the chemical, geological, and climatic history of Mars, as well as the potential habitability of its regolith.
This article was published in J Geophys Res
and referenced in Journal of Physical Chemistry & Biophysics