|A Prototype Ice-Melting Probe for Collecting Biological Samples from Cryogenic Ice at Low Pressure
In the Solar System, the surface of an icy moon is composed of irregular ice formations at cryogenic temperatures (<200 K), with an oxidized surface layer and a tenuous atmosphere at very low pressure (<10−6 atm). A lander mission, whose aim is to collect and analyze biological samples from the surface ice, must contain a device that collects samples without refreezing liquid and without sublimation of ice. In addition, if the samples are biological in nature, then precautions must be taken to ensure the samples do not overheat or mix with the oxidized layer. To achieve these conditions, the collector must maintain temperatures close to maintenance or growth conditions of the organism (<293 K), and it must separate or neutralize the oxidized layer and be physically gentle. Here, we describe a device that addresses these requirements and is compatible with low atmospheric pressure while using no pumps. The device contains a heated conical probe with a central orifice, which is forced into surface ice and directs the meltwater upward into a reservoir. The force on the probe is proportional to the height of meltwater (pressure) obtained in the system and allows regulation of the melt rate and temperature of the sample. The device can collect 5–50 mL of meltwater from the surface of an ice block at 233–208 K with an environmental pressure of less than 10−2 atm while maintaining a sample temperature between 273 and 293 K. These conditions maintain most biological samples in a pristine state and maintain the integrity of most organisms' structure and function.
|Hot-Point Drills, Thermal Drilling
|Ashley Davis ( 2017 ) A Prototype Ice-Melting Probe for Collecting Biological Samples from Cryogenic Ice at Low Pressure. Astrobiology , 17 , 8 , 709-720 . doi: 10.1089/ast.2016.1514