Spectroscopy of planetary analog materials in support of current and future space missions: Terrestrial material which closely resembles material from Mars and Mercury is spectroscopically investigated using FTIR, Raman and LIBS. The data serve as a guide for the development of novel spectrometers and provide a reference library for the interpretation of mission data.
Sample analysis: In addition to analog materials real extraterrestrial samples are investigated using Raman micro-spectroscopy and infrared spectroscopy. A recent highlight is the investigation of the specific chemical composition of the minerals that make up the dust particles which were returned from the asteroid Itokawa by the Japanese Hayabusa mission. The long term goal is to establish a sample analysis laboratory which allows performing first-hand sample analysis with respect to elemental, isotopical and mineralogical composition of samples returned from missions to asteroids, moons or Mars.
Astrobiological research: The survival potential and photosynthetic activity of various microorganisms (extremophiles) is studied in a dedicated chamber, which enables the simulation of the Martian atmosphere with respect to chemical composition, humidity and temperature including diurnal variation. The goal is to understand which species can survive under e.g. Martian conditions and which biological mechanisms enable this.