Organic samples produced by ion bombardment of ices for the EXPOSE-R2 mission on the International Space Station
G.A. Baratta ; D. Chaput ; H. Cottin ; et al. ; - ASI Sponsor
Dec - 2015
DOI: :10.1016/j.pss.2015.08.011

journal : Planetary and Space Science

Volume : 118 ; type: Article Journal

We describe the preparation and characterization (by UV–vis–IR spectroscopy) of a set of organic samples, stable at room temperature and above, that are part of the experiment “Photochemistry on the Space Station (PSS)” planned to be enclosed in the EXPOSE-R2 mission, which will be conducted on the EXPOSE-R facility. The core facility is placed outside the International Space Station (ISS) on the Universal Platform D (URM-D platform) of the Russian module Zvezda. The organic materials are prepared in the Catania laboratory after 200 keV He+ irradiation of icy mixtures, namely N2:CH4:CO deposited at 16 K on MgF2 windows furnished by the European Space Agency. It is widely accepted that such a kind of materials produced by energetic processing are representative of organic material in some astrophysical environments as comets. Once expelled from comets these materials are exposed to solar radiation during their interplanetary journey before they eventually land on Earth and other planetary objects where they might give a contribution to the chemical and pre-biotical evolution. In particular our residues contain different chemical groups, including triple CN bonds that are considered relevant to pre-biotic chemistry. Therefore the samples will be exposed, for several months, to the solar ultraviolet photons that are a major source of energy to initiate chemical evolution in the solar system. This will allow analysis of their destruction or modification and evaluation of their lifetime in the interplanetary medium. The samples have three different thicknesses that will allow estimation of the depth profile of destruction. This experiment overcomes the limits of ground tests which do not reproduce exactly the space parameters.

keywords : Astrobiology; Astrochemistry; Comets: general; Molecular processes; Method: laboratory; Techniques: spectroscopic

Notes : This research has been supported by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) contract no. 2013-073-R.0: PSS (Photochemistry on the Space Station).