Pittcon 2022 | March 5 - 9, 2022
Georgia World Congress Center
Atlanta, Georgia, USA


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Here Be Dragons: Development of the Dragonfly Mass Spectrometer for Titan

  • Room: B314
  • Session Number: S37-01
Monday, March 07, 2022: 8:35 AM - 9:10 AM


Melissa Trainer
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


Titan's abundant complex carbon-rich chemistry, interior ocean, and past presence of liquid water on the surface make it an ideal destination to study prebiotic chemical processes and habitability of an extraterrestrial environment. NASA's Dragonfly New Frontiers mission is a rotorcraft lander designed to perform wide-ranging in situ exploration on this moon of Saturn by flying to different geologic settings up to ~180 km apart. Multidisciplinary science measurements at each landing site will reveal the compositions of solid materials on Titan's surface, which are still essentially unknown. Two primary science goals of the Dragonfly mission are to identify chemical components and processes at work that may produce biologically relevant compounds, and to search for potential molecular biosignatures. These objectives are addressed by the Dragonfly Mass Spectrometer (DraMS), which performs molecular analysis on surface samples that are acquired and delivered by a cryogenic surface sampling drill. DraMS is a linear ion trap mass spectrometer, most closely related to the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA), part of the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin Rover set to launch in 2022. Several DraMS subsystems contain strong heritage derived from the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument, which has explored the surface of Mars for over nine years onboard the Curiosity rover. For solid sample analysis, DraMS features two modes: Laser Desorption Mass Spectrometry (LDMS) for broad compositional survey of surface materials including refractory organics, and Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) for separation and identification of key prebiotic molecules and measurement of enantiomeric excesses (if present). In this talk we will discuss the Dragonfly mission and the design and development of DraMS, with a focus on areas in which the unique aspects of the Titan environment and Dragonfly science dictated a departure from the heritage Mars instrumentation designs and approach.


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