2013 Annual Science Report
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Reporting | SEP 2012 – AUG 2013
Advancing Methods for the Analyses of Organic Molecules in Sediments
Eigenbrode’s research focuses on understanding the formation and preservation of organic and isotopic sedimentary records of ancient Earth and Mars. To this end, and as part of GCA’s Theme IV effort, Eigenbrode seeks to overcome sampling and analytical challenges associated with organic analyses of samples relevant to astrobiology. She modifies and develops methods of contamination tracking, sampling, and analysis (primarily gas chromatography mass spectrometry, GCMS) that improve the recovery of meaningful observations and provide protocol guidance for future astrobiological missions.
Advances in recovering organic signatures have been made in automated-thermochemolysis and evolved gas analysis studies of samples that contain iron-oxides, smectite clay minerals and oxychlorine compounds, such as perchlorate. These minerals have been identified at Gale Crater by the MSL team and yet they can sometimes aid and challenge organic detections that involve thermal extraction. Eigenbrode is applying the advances made in analytical protocols to the analysis of gamma -irradiated samples in order to understand the radiolysis of molecules in martian analog sediments. This work leveraged samples from a small project supported by GSFC Science Initative Fund (SIF) and contributed to the in-depth molecular analyses that were beyond the scope of the GSFC SIF project. Half of Eigenbrode’s GCA effort for 2013 has been devoted to writing a perspectives paper on Martian organic geochemistry.