Dr. Jurij Simčič (IJS): Use of mass spectrometers in space exploration
Since the early beginnings of space exploration, mass spectrometers (MS) have been the "work-horses" among instruments sent to space. Various types have been used, according to different planetary targets and available technology, yet all were designed to achieve highest analytical characteristics (sensitivity, mass range & resolution) in a smallest mass-volume-power envelope possible. In addition, these instruments had to be robust enough to survive high accelerations during takeoff and landing, and operate in extreme thermal and radiation environments.
The Quadrupole Ion Trap Mass Spectrometer (QITMS) developed at JPL belongs is currently the smallest/lightest space-flight mass spectrometer with analytical capabilities comparable to the lab-size commercial instruments. I will compare different types of mass spectrometers and explain the principles of operation of the QITMS and the unique engineering solutions that made it successful. I will demonstrate some of its analytical capabilities and modes of operation, and how those can be used for different types of planetary environments (atmospheres, oceans, minerals) in future space missions planned by the European Space Agency.