The U.S. military is currently employing a sensing technique that can monitor remotely the air, and can detect potential life-threatening chemicals, pathogens and toxins.
The idea has been used as a source of inspiration in developing an instrument that could help sniff for life on Mars and possibly around the solar system.
The instrument called the Bio-Indicator Lidar Instrument or BILI. The NASA technologist who handles the project formerly worked for a company developing sensor. By having that advantage, the instrument turned into a prototype at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The scientist then proved that the same principles used in identifying bio-hazards can also be employed in spotting organic bio-signatures on other planets.
That’s how Branimir Blagojevic came up with the BILI, a flourescent-based lidar, a remote-sensing instrument using the radar principles.
The instruments use light to analyze the particles’ composition in the atmosphere instead of operating through radio waves.
NASA hasn’t been tested the technique in planetary studies, though they’ve utilized flourescence instruments.
However, the team of scientists on the project was quite excited for possibilities this instrument opens. Reasons to why it is unique, it’s because small levels of complex organic materials will be instantly detected from a distance of a few hundred miles away.
The instrument will autonomously look for bio-signatures in plumes, and it manages to reach areas that a normal rover can hardly be reach. Level of analysis could be both very precise and very wide in practicality.
The instrument will less likely contaminate the samples with other materials that could influence the results of analysis, since it will be carried out from a distance. And with this qualities, It represents a perfect complementary instrument.