Fernando Rull, Sylvestre Maurice, Ian Hutchinson, Andoni Moral, Carlos Perez, Carlos Diaz, Maria Colombo, Tomas Belenguer, Guillermo Lopez-Reyes, Antonio Sansano, Olivier Forni, Yann Parot, Nicolas Striebig, Simon Woodward, Chris Howe, Nicolau Tarcea, Pablo Rodriguez, Laura Seoane, Amaia Santiago, Jose A. Rodriguez-Prieto, Jesús Medina, Paloma Gallego, Rosario Canchal, Pilar Santamaría, Gonzalo Ramos, Jorge L. Vago. 2017. The Raman Laser Spectrometer for the ExoMars Rover Mission to Mars. Astrobiology 17, 6-7, 627-654 DOI: 10.1089/ast.2016.1567
The Raman Laser Spectrometer (RLS) on board the ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars 2020 mission will provide precise identification of the mineral phases and the possibility to detect organics on the Red Planet. The RLS will work on the powdered samples prepared inside the Pasteur analytical suite and collected on the surface and subsurface by a drill system. Raman spectroscopy is a well-known analytical technique based on the inelastic scattering by matter of incident monochromatic light (the Raman effect) that has many applications in laboratory and industry, yet to be used in space applications. Raman spectrometers will be included in two Mars rovers scheduled to be launched in 2020. The Raman instrument for ExoMars 2020 consists of three main units: (1) a transmission spectrograph coupled to a CCD detector; (2) an electronics box, including the excitation laser that controls the instrument functions; and (3) an optical head with an autofocus mechanism illuminating and collecting the scattered light from the spot under investigation. The optical head is connected to the excitation laser and the spectrometer by optical fibers. The instrument also has two targets positioned inside the rover analytical laboratory for onboard Raman spectral calibration. The aim of this article was to present a detailed description of the RLS instrument, including its operation on Mars. To verify RLS operation before launch and to prepare science scenarios for the mission, a simulator of the sample analysis chain has been developed by the team. The results obtained are also discussed. Finally, the potential of the Raman instrument for use in field conditions is addressed. By using a ruggedized prototype, also developed by our team, a wide range of terrestrial analog sites across the world have been studied. These investigations allowed preparing a large collection of real, in situ spectra of samples from different geological processes and periods of Earth evolution. On this basis, we are working to develop models for interpreting analog processes on Mars during the mission.