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Steve McDaniel - Self-sterilizing/Self-cleaning Coatings for Life-detecting Planetary Probes

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Steve McDaniel - Self-sterilizing/Self-cleaning Coatings for Life-detecting Planetary Probes

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Steve McDaniel

Reactive Surfaces

Co-Authors: Jon Hurt, Lisa Kemp, Tyler Hodges, Brittney McInnis

 

Abstract

NASA’s search for life within the solar system has recently expanded to a wider number of targets, now including the icy moons of Saturn (Enceladus) and Jupiter (Callisto, Ganymede, Europa) in addition to Earth and its sister planets (Mars, Venus). This larger array of targets, coupled with the stringent planetary protection protocols in place to protect the targets from contamination by Earth-derived microbes, presents a unique challenge and opportunity for coatings that protect the spacecraft, landers, rovers and other probes.  This becomes especially critical when the probes are used to attempt detection of any indigenous extant microbes in environments on the target most likely to harbor such life, most importantly, environmental niches that are known to have liquid water in them.  Self-sterilizing coatings will be discussed that are capable of continually and completely (throughout the entire life of the mission) ridding surfaces of Earth-derived microbes.  These coatings utilize bio-based additives capable of rapidly killing hitch-hiker microbes such as enzymes, peptides, heavy-metal scavengers, and enzymatic inhibitors.  In addition, the surfaces that may potentially be exposed to at-risk target environments must be free of nucleic acid polymers such as DNA and RNA to prevent forward transformation of any indigenous microbes by Earth-derived informational molecules.  Self-cleaning coatings containing nuclease capable of rapidly and continually degrading such nucleic acid polymers will be discussed. The use of such coatings as the key technology around which the remaining mission architecture and equipment can be integrated will be summarized.

 

Biography

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