SS SCIENCE HIGHLIGHTS

Title: Public outreach in the Atacama Desert NAS ARADS Mission simulation

On September 15 a group of 40 graduate and undergraduate students visited the Atacama Rover Astrobiology Drilling Studies (ARADS) drill site situated on a dry playa near Youngay. The students were from two universities in Antofagasta: the Universidad Católica del Norte and the University of Antofagasta (lead by Prof. Luis Caceres).  During their visit students were briefed about the ARADS project by Brian Glass, the ARADS PI (Code TI) and by other team scientists as well, who illustrated the Signs of Life Detector (SOLID) life detection instrument (Centro de Astrobiologia (CAB); and a version of the Wet Chemistry Laboratory (WCL) onboard rover-mounted drill. 

Rosalba Bonaccorsi (SETI Institute) gave an interactive demonstration of the use of a hand-held instrument (luminometer) to measure the adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a biological marker compound present in all plants, animals and microbial cells, used as indicator of metabolically active universal life. For these reasons, the ATP assay is employed to monitor microbial bioburden including potential contamination released from humans working around the rover as well as to certify achieved cleanliness after decontamination practices in the field and in the laboratory.