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Life (Basel). 2019 Aug 27;9(3). pii: E70. doi: 10.3390/life9030070.

The Oxygen Release Instrument: Space Mission Reactive Oxygen Species Measurements for Habitability Characterization, Biosignature Preservation Potential Assessment, and Evaluation of Human Health Hazards.

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Department of Biology, University of Patras 26504, Greece.
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA.
SETI Institute, Carl Sagan Center, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA.
Department of Biology, University of Patras 26504, Greece.


We describe the design of an instrument, the OxR (for Oxygen Release), for the enzymatically specific and non-enzymatic detection and quantification of the reactive oxidant species (ROS), superoxide radicals (O2•-), and peroxides (O22-, e.g., H2O2) on the surface of Mars and Moon. The OxR instrument is designed to characterize planetary habitability, evaluate human health hazards, and identify sites with high biosignature preservation potential. The instrument can also be used for missions to the icy satellites of Saturn's Titan and Enceladus, and Jupiter's Europa. The principle of the OxR instrument is based on the conversion of (i) O2•- to O2 via its enzymatic dismutation (which also releases H2O2), and of (ii) H2O2 (free or released by the hydrolysis of peroxides and by the dismutation of O2•-) to O2 via enzymatic decomposition. At stages i and ii, released O2 is quantitatively detected by an O2 sensor and stoichiometrically converted to moles of O2•- and H2O2. A non-enzymatic alternative approach is also designed. These methods serve as the design basis for the construction of a new small-footprint instrument for specific oxidant detection. The minimum detection limit of the OxR instrument for O2•- and O22- in Mars, Lunar, and Titan regolith, and in Europa and Enceladus ice is projected to be 10 ppb. The methodology of the OxR instrument can be rapidly advanced to flight readiness by leveraging the Phoenix Wet Chemical Laboratory, or microfluidic sample processing technologies.


biosignatures; habitability; instrument; planetary oxygen-based reactive oxidants

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