Enabling Ice Core Science on Mars and Ocean Worlds

Alexander G. Chipps, Cassius B. Tunis, Nathan Chellman, Joseph R. McConnell, Bruce Hammer, Christopher E. Carr

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Ice deposits on Earth provide an extended record of volcanism, planetary climate, and life. On Mars, such a record may extend as far back as tens to hundreds of millions of years (My), compared to only a few My on Earth. Here, we propose and demonstrate a compact instrument, the Melter-Sublimator for Ice Science (MSIS), and describe its potential use cases. Similar to current use in the analysis of ice cores, linking MSIS to downstream elemental, chemical, and biological analyses could address whether Mars is, or was in the recent past, volcanically active, enable the creation of a detailed climate history of the late Amazonian, and seek evidence of subsurface life preserved in ice sheets. The sublimation feature can not only serve as a preconcentrator for in-situ analyses, but also enable the collection of rare material such as cosmogenic nu-clides, which could be returned to Earth and used to confirm and expand the record of nearby supernovas and long-term trends in space weather. Missions to Ocean Worlds such as Europa or Enceladus will involve ice processing, and there MSIS would deliver liquid samples for downstream wet chemistry analyses. Our combined melter-sublimator system can thus help to address diverse questions in heliophysics, habitability, and astrobiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2023 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2023
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
ISBN (Electronic)9781665490320
StatePublished - 2023
Event2023 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2023 - Big Sky, United States
Duration: Mar 4 2023Mar 11 2023

Publication series

NameIEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings
ISSN (Print)1095-323X


Conference2023 IEEE Aerospace Conference, AERO 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBig Sky

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Joseph R. McConnell received a B.A. in Geology and Geophysics from Yale, an M.S. in Exploration Geophysics from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Hy- drogeology and Water Resources from the University of Arizona. He is a Re- search Professor in the Division of Hy- drologic Sciences at the Desert Research Institute (DRI). Current NSF, NASA, and internally funded research projects include ice core chemistry-based studies in Greenland, Antarctica, and the Americas, using his group’s unique ultra-trace ice core analytical laboratory.

Funding Information:
Funded by faculty startup funds from the Georgia Institute of Technology to C.E.C.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 IEEE.


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