Our November talk is titled "The Life Marker Chip" and will be given by Prof. Mark Sims of the University of Leicester Space Research Centre.
The Life Marker Chip (LMC) instrument being developed by scientists at the University of Leicester and Cranfield University will utilise bio-technology measurement techniques to detect specific molecules that may be associated with past or present life on Mars. It will exploit the highly specific recognition and binding properties of protein based receptor molecules. This can be thought of as a 'lock and key' approach in which the target molecule provides the key which fits the receptor lock. The shape of the receptor molecule allows only target molecules of a particular shape to fit and 'lock' to it.
Receptor molecules will be labelled with a fluorescent dye, which will enable the binding together of target and receptor molecules to be detected using an Active Pixel Sensor (a solid-state imaging detector). Target molecules will include amino acids and long chain molecules associated with life on Earth.
The plan is to launch the LMC on ESA ExoMars mission although I believe test launches have already been performed but I shall let Prof. Sims explain that.
To read more about the LMC see the following articles;