We propose an innovative arm-mounted instrument for acquiring and analyzing planetary subsurface materials. The instrument extracts 5×1cm cores, and immediately performs in-situ, time-resolved, coregistered imaging and spectroscopic mapping at high resolution – 10µm and 50µm, respectively. Rapid analysis of cores is critical to characterize original material before it has time to lose its volatiles or oxidize. The significant attribute of our technology is the ability to focus on a specific layer or location on the core surface – something that none of the previous, current, or even future surface missions have capability to do.
The goal of Phase I is to develop and integrate key subsystems of the Dual in-situ Spectroscopy and COring instrument, DiSCO, and critically evaluate their performance using standards. Phase I will advance DiSCO to TRL4. DiSCO is the first instrument that boasts integrated drilling/coring/caching, imaging, and laser spectroscopic mapping systems. DiSCO integrates a combined fiber-based optical imaging, laser Raman spectroscopy (LRS), laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), and laser-induced native fluorescence (LINF) system into an SBIR-funded, demonstrated drilling and coring platform.
DiSCO advances planetary exploration by enabling unprecedented observational and analytical capabilities on landed spacecrafts by integrating drilling, coring, caching, imaging, LRS, LIBS, and LINF technologies into a compact arm-mounted instrument. Thus, DiSCO: (i) obviates the need for drill-sample/core-analyze approaches, which are popular (Curiosity and ExoMars) but severely limited, (ii) provides evidence relevant to selecting subsurface sample sites, (iii) enables careful selection and caching of subsurface samples, (iv) and facilitates assessment of subsurface composition and transformation processes of metastable materials. These features and capabilities make DiSCO a potential disruptive tool for a wide range of future landed missions.
Our innovation improves instrument measurement capabilities for planetary science missions such as Discovery, New Frontiers, Mars Exploration, and other planetary programs, including: landed exploration missions to Venus, Moon, Mars, Europa, Titan, comets, and asteroids; sample return missions to Moon, Mars, comets and asteroids. In addition, DiSCO may be used to identify and map available planetary in-situ resources, and to spur the development of autonomous in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) devices for robotic and human missions.
While coring robotics and spectroscopic sensing are established fields, DiSCO combines them, for the first time, to develop a new tool for subsurface geochemical/mineralogical investigations. DiSCO will enable technological spin-offs in geological prospecting; environmental monitoring/assessment; agricultural soil quality monitoring; oil & gas exploration and development; homeland security.