The technology would be able to analyze bio-signatures by sniffing out particles using lasers over a large area.
Scientists at NASA have found a way to search for signs of life on Mars and it resembles a sniffer dog.
The technology is designed to ‘sniff out’ certain molecules while analyzing dust on the surface of the red planet that could give indication of previous or current signs of life or ‘bio-signatures’.
The instrument is called a Bio-indicator LiDAR instrument or BILI and is inspired by a sensor that’s used by the U.S. military to detect dangerous chemicals in the air. The technology on the BILI uses light to detect and analyze particle composition using ultraviolet laser beams that it emits and bounces back feeding information on the specimen its looking at.
Branimir Blagojevic, a NASA technologist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, originally came up with the technology for the military around a decade ago and had no idea that it could potentially be used to find life on Mars.
“NASA has never used [fluorescence techniques] for planetary ground level exploration. If the agency develops it, it will be the first of a kind,” said Blagojevic.
According to a report in Christian Science Monitor, the technology is efficient because it can run on just electricity meaning it can cover large areas at a time. It’s also able to find bio-particles from hundreds of meters away causing less contamination.
Despite the excitement and potential, the technology is still being tested and the researchers involved don’t know when or if NASA will decide to use it. However, Blagojevic is optimistic that it could play a major role in future missions to Mars.
“If past life existed on Mars, it could be possible to detect with this kind of instrument.”