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Mission Objectives

The internal microdevice will integrate lifting gate valves with two major modifications. First, the working fluid of the valves will be hydraulic rather than pneumatic to help avoid burst pressures occurring during impact Second, the valves will have an active close (normally open) to prevent the  valves from permanently sealing shut during transit, avoiding leakage issues that other normally opened microfluidic valves experience.

Impact Penetrator Organic Analyzer (IMPOA)

Principal stress analysis of a microdevice reveals that proper backing is necessary to avoid fractures along edges supported by a manifold.



"I believe it is possible for ordinary people to choose to be extraordinary."

- Elon Musk

The IMPOA is an Extraterrestrial Organic Analyzer (EOA) that utilizes in situ instrumentation to enable compositional and chiral analysis of multiple classes of organic molecules with superb sensitivity (parts-per-trillion, pptr). Platforms have been developed for analysis of Martian regolith and drilling fines (Mars Organic Analyzer proposed to the Mars 2020 mission) and for analysis of Enceladus plume particles (Enceladus Organic Analyzer proposed as a Technology Demonstration Option for a Discovery mission). Here, we present an EOA in development under PICASSO funding to be capable of sustaining a 50,000 g impact with ice, and is therefore compatible with an impact penetrator mission to a Martian polar region or any icy moon of the outer solar system.


  • Measure organics: The Impactor EOA, with sensitivities ~3 orders of magnitude greater than noncontact systems, would directly measure the organic content of the subsurface ice for compounds found in carbonaceous chondrites including amines, amino acids, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
  • Search for biosignatures: The Impactor EOA would detect biologically-relevant organic molecules (including amino acid chirality) in the subsurface ice.
  • ​Support planetary models:The Impactor EOA would provide ground-truth measurements of the subsurface, which combined with other in situ and remote sensing  measurements would constrain models on Martian planetary history.

Mission Design Concept