"Test di gravidanza" (sic) destinato a Marte in volo sul Foton M3


For Immediate Release

September 17, 2007

Contact Andrew Steele at the Carnegie Institution – 1 202 478 8974
(office), +1 202 478 8900 (department), or

See launch details http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMQDB13J6F_index_0.html

Life on Mars “Pregnancy Test” Successfully Launched

Washington DC*-- Key components of a new approach to discover life on
Mars were successfully launched into space Friday as part of a
twelve-day, low-Earth orbit experiment to assess their survivability in
the space radiation environmentÑa prelude to future journeys to Mars.

The new approach is based on technology similar to that used in
pregnancy test kits. The so-called immunoassays are embodied in the
“Life Marker Chip” (LMC) experiment, which has the potential to detect
trace levels of biomarkers in the Martian environment. Biomarkers are
molecular fingerprints that indicate if life currently is, or ever was,
present on Mars. The LMC experiment has been proposed for the European
Space Agency’s ExoMars rover mission, which is planned for launch in
2013. The LMC experiment is in the development phase and is led by an
international consortium with researchers including Andrew Steele, a
staff member of Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory in the United States,
and scientists from the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, and Germany.

For the current mission, the consortium developed a tiny component,
measuring only 1.5 inches x 1.6 inches x .5 inch ( 3.8 cm x 4.1 cm x 1.3
cm) and housing over 2000 samples, to test that the key molecular
components to be used in the LMC technology can survive the rigors of

The experiment was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan as
part of the European Space Agency’s BIOPAN-6 experiment platform. The
LMC components will experience both weightlessness and the harsh space
radiation environment while orbiting the Earth 180 times at an altitude
of up to 190 miles (308 km) during the 11.8 day mission.

The BIOPAN-6 platform is mounted on the outside of an un-manned Russian
FOTON spacecraft. Once in space the BIOPAN-6 platform will open to
expose its contents directly to the space environment, testing both
their resistance to space radiation and the space vacuum, before closing
and returning to Earth on September 25th. The LMC components will then
be taken back to laboratories in the United Kingdom and the United
States to analyze the effect of the space flight.

The lead members of the consortium involved in the current mission are
Deutsches Zentrum f’r Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) (Germany), Cranfield
University (UK), Carnegie Institution of Washington (USA) and University
of Leicester (UK).

Dr. Andrew Steele from the Carnegie Institution of Washington (USA) and
one of the initial experiment proposers said, “in the USA we are
currently flying related technology and components within the protected
environment of the International Space Station (ISS) but this will be
the first time that these types of materials will have flown unprotected
in space in a manner similar to a flight to Mars.”

Dr. Lutz Richter of DLR (Germany) and the principal investigator for the
current experiment said, 'This experiment is the culmination of a number
of years of hard work and ground based tests to prove the viability of
the LMC technology."

Dr. David Cullen, from Cranfield University (UK) and who leads the
scientific input into the current experiment, said, "this will be our
first space experiment to demonstrate our belief that immunoassay
technology will have an important future role in space exploration and
the search for life elsewhere in the Solar System.’

Dr. Mark Sims from the University of Leicester (UK) and who heads the
overall LMC project said, “this mission will be an important stepping
stone in our ultimate goal of putting a LMC experiment on the surface of
Mars and using it to search for evidence of Life.”

A number of other people, organizations and companies have contributed
to the experiment and these include Haptogen Ltd. (Aberdeen, UK),
Oklahoma State University (USA), LioniX BV (Enschede, NL), Technische
Universit’t Munchen (Germany) and Dr Jan Toporski, formally of
Christian-Albrechts-Universit?t zu Kiel (Germany).

*This release was adapted from a release by Cranfield Health, Cranfield
University, Silsoe, Bedfordshire MK45 4DT, United Kingdom.

The Carnegie Institution of Washington, a private nonprofit
organization, has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research
since 1902. It has six research departments: the Geophysical Laboratory
and the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, both located in Washington,
D.C.; The Observatories, in Pasadena, California, and Chile; the
Department of Plant Biology and the Department of Global Ecology, in
Stanford, California; and the Department of Embryology, in Baltimore,

Additional contacts:

Deutsches Zentrum f’r Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)

Dr. Lutz Richter (project contact)
+44 (0) 1525 86 3538 / 9 (office)
+44 (0) 775 436 3467 (mobile)
DLR Institute of Space Simulation, Linder Hoehe, D-51170 Cologne, Germany

Cranfield University

Cranfield University is one of Western EuropeÕs largest academic centres
for strategic and applied research, development and design. It is unique
in its entirely postgraduate focus. The university is made up of three
campuses at Cranfield, Silsoe and Shrivenham and which house Cranfield
School of Management, School of Applied Sciences, School of Engineering,
Cranfield Health and The Defence College of Management and Technology.
For further details see www.cranfield.ac.uk

Dr. David C. Cullen (science contact)
+44 (0) 1525 86 3538 / 9 (office)
+44 (0) 775 436 3467 (mobile)
Cranfield Health, Cranfield University, Silsoe, Bedfordshire MK45 4DT,
United Kingdom

Carnegie Institution of Washington

Dr. Andrew Steele
+1 202 478 8974 (office)
+1 202 478 8900 (department)
Carnegie Institution of Washington, Geophysical Laboratory, 5251 Broad
Branch Rd., N.W, Washington, DC 20015, USA

University of Leiceste

Dr. Mark R. Sims
+44 (0) 116 252 3513 (office)
+44 (0) 7801 858920 (mobile)
Space Research Centre, Michael Atiyah Building, Department of Physics
and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, United Kingdom

Further details of the FOTON-M3 mission that incorporates the BIOPAN-6
platform can be found at the European Space AgencyÕs website -
http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMN5ZMPQ5F_FeatureWeek_0.html and especially