Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) is a suite of instruments developed for use on the Mars Science Laboratory. By looking for evidence of water, carbon, and other important building blocks of life in the Mars soil and atmosphere, this suite will help answer one of humankind's biggest questions about the planet: did it ever support life? SAM was designed and built in an international collaboration between Goddard Space Flight Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Paris, and Honeybee Robotics. This video series highlights the mission, its objectives, and some of Goddard's contributors to the project.
This video profiles Dan Carrigan, the engineer primarily responsible for building SAM's QMS, or Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer. QMS's purpose is to break down the Mars atmosphere and vaporized soil into their components and help scientists identify what those components are.
This video profiles Synthia Tonn, a junior engineer responsible for SAM's ground support equipment as well as its 'plumbing,' or the series of tiny, winding gas lines that connect SAM's various instruments.
BROADCAST-QUALITY FOOTAGE: B-roll of the Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer (QMS) being built by Dan Carrigan and integrated into the SAM suite. QMS will analyze and determine the components of the Martian atmosphere. It will also analyze volatiles released from soil samples that are heated by small ovens in the SAM suite.
BROADCAST-QUALITY FOOTAGE: B-roll of the Tunable Laser Spectrometer. TLS is an instrument in the SAM suite that will perform a sensitive search for methane and measure oxygen and carbon isotope ratios in carbon dioxide as well as the carbon isotope in methane. Methane and carbon dioxide are critical to terrestrial life and planetary evolution.
BROADCAST-QUALITY FOOTAGE: B-roll of SAM's microvalves being assembled at Goddard Space Flight Center. Microvalves work much like miniature faucets; by opening and closing them, gas moves through pipes within the SAM suite. These valves are designed to be so tight that not even helium can pass through them when closed.
BROADCAST-QUALITY FOOTAGE: B-roll of SAM's Solid Sample Inlet Tube (SSIT) being inspected by Jesse Lewis at Goddard Space Flight Center. The SSIT is the 'front gate' for Mars soil samples to enter the SAM suite.
BROADCAST-QUALITY FOOTAGE: B-roll of SAM's Sample Manipulation System (SMS) being integrated and tested at Goddard Space Flight Center. SMS receives soil samples from SAM's inlet tubes and delivers them for analysis by SAM instruments.
BROADCAST-QUALITY FOOTAGE: B-roll of Goddard employees and team members from the University of Paris working on SAM's electronics systems. SAM is an international collaboration with team members from the United States, France, and Mexico.
BROADCAST-QUALITY FOOTAGE: B-roll Heather Franz, research analyst, working on the SAM Development Model. The SAM Development Model is a larger-than-life mock-up of the systems and instruments within SAM, allowing the team to develop, test, and modify components within the suite prior to constructing the flight hardware.
BROADCAST-QUALITY FOOTAGE: The SAM testbed, a complete, functioning duplicate of SAM, is instealled into the Mars chamber at Goddard Space Flight Center. There, the testbed will exist in a simulated Mars environment, where scientists and engineers can perform tests in the same environment as the flight hardware.
BROADCAST-QUALITY FOOTAGE: The SAM Mars chamber is a box, about the size of a refrigerator, that can simulate the pressures, temperatures, and atmosphere of Mars! Inside, the SAM testbed will exist in a simulated Mars environment, where scientists and engineers can perform tests in the same environment as the flight hardware.
Tucked inside the Curiosity rover is a miniature chemistry lab designed to unlock the secrets of Mars. Principal Investigator Paul Mahaffy, Deputy Principal Investigator Pamela Conrad, and MSL Participating Scientist Jennifer Eigenbrode discuss their work on SAM, the Sample Analysis at Mars, and its mission to the figure out the past and present chemistry of the Red Planet.