An experiment centering around a mass spectrometer is described, which is aimed at the identification of organic substances present in the top 10 cm of the surface of Mars and an analysis of the atmosphere for major and minor constituents as well as isotopic abundances. In addition, an indication of the abundance of water in the surface and some information concerning the mineralogy can be obtained by monitoring the gases produced upon heating the soil sample. The organic material will simply be expelled by heating to 150??, 300??, and 500?? into the carrier gas stream of a gas chromatograph interfaced to the mass spectrometer or by slowly heating the sample in direct communication with the spectrometer. It is planned to analyze a total of up to nine soil samples in order to study diurnal and seasonal variations. The system is designed to give useful data even for minor constituents if the total of organics should be as low as 5ppm. The spectrometer covers the mass range of 12-200 with adequate resolution. The results of these experiments, which are deliberately designed to cover a wide spectrum of possibilities independent of terrestrial models, are expected to produce a good picture of the planet's organic chemistry and its possible biological significance as well as allow conclusions regarding the history of the planet's atmosphere. ?? 1972.
Additional publication details
Mass spectrometric analysis of organic compounds, water and volatile constituents in the atmosphere and surface of Mars: The Viking Mars Lander