International Journal of Astrobiology

Astrobiological instrumentation for Mars – the only way is down

A. Ellery a1c1, C. Kolb a2, H. Lammer a2, J. Parnell a3, H. Edwards a4, L. Richter a5, M. Patel a6, J. Romstedt a7, D. Dickensheets a8, A. Steele a9 and C. Cockell a10
a1 School of Engineering, Kingston University, London, UK e-mail:
a2 Space Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Graz, Austria e-mail:,
a3 Department of Geology & Petroleum Geology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK e-mail:
a4 Department of Chemical & Forensic Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK e-mail:
a5 DLR, Cologne, Germany e-mail:
a6 Planetary & Space Sciences Research Institute, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK e-mail:
a7 ESA-ESTEC, Noordwijk, Holland e-mail:
a8 Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, USA e-mail:
a9 Carnegie Institute of Washington, Geophysical Laboratory, Washington, DC, USA e-mail:
a10 British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK e-mail:


In this paper, in this edition of the Journal commemorating the life and work of David Wynn-Williams, we consider approaches to the astrobiological investigation of Mars. We provide a brief account of the scientific rationale behind the approach presented here. In particular, we outline the capabilities of the Raman spectrometer for the detection of biomarkers. David Wynn-Williams was an active champion of this instrument who was keen to field-qualify a version in Antarctica with a view to flying a Raman instrument onboard a Mars-bound space mission. We examine a scenario for the deployment of such an instrument in conjunction with other instrumentation and argue that subsurface deployment of scientific instruments is essential if we are to succeed in detecting any evidence that may exist for former life on Mars. We outline a mission scenario – Vanguard – which represents a novel but low-risk, low-cost approach to Mars exploration that was conceived and developed jointly by one of the authors (Ellery) and the late David Wynn-Williams.

(Accepted October 20 2002)

Key Words: astrobiology; Mars; mole; oxidant; Raman; rover.

c1 Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.