Sciences and Exploration Directorate

William B Brinckerhoff


William B Brinckerhoff's Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.614.6397
Org Code: 690
Mail Code 690
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Missions & Projects

Brief Bio

William B. Brinckerhoff is a senior scientist in the Solar System Exploration Division at Goddard Space Flight Center. Dr. Brinckerhoff is involved in a number of experimental research and development projects for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. He has served as PI, deputy PI, or Co-I for several NASA instrument development awards concerning mass spectrometers and sample handling systems for future missions to planetary bodies. He currently serves as Project Scientist for the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) instrument on the ExoMars rover mission planned for launch in 2022 and as Co-I for the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) investigation on the Curiosity rover and for the Dragonfly mission to Titan. Dr. Brinckerhoff also has interests in small body and ocean world geochemistry, planetary mission design, and astrobiology, serving as PI of a project studying hypervelocity impact-induced organic synthesis and as Co-I in the Goddard Center for Astrobiology team of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, a virtual research consortium seeking to design and conduct experiments related to the formation and distribution of organic molecules.

Current Projects

Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA)


Project Scientist for the MOMA investigation on the ExoMars rover mission (Rosalind Franklin rover). MOMA is led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany (MOMA PI: Dr. Fred Goesmann). The Mass Spectrometer subsystem of MOMA is under development at Goddard.

Dragonfly Mass Spectrometer (DraMS)

Technology & Missions

Deputy Lead for the DraMS investigation (Lead: Dr. Melissa Trainer, GSFC) under development to fly on the Dragonfly New Frontiers mission to Titan (Mission PI: Dr. E. Turtle, JHU/APL)

Europan Molecular Indicators of Life Investigation (EMILI)

Technology & Missions

EMILI is a project to develop and demonstrate a prototype and technologies for the Organic Composition Analyzer (OCA) as specified for the Europa Lander mission concept. EMILI combines both derivatization gas chromatography (GC) and capillary electrophoresis/laser induced fluorescence (CE/LIF) separation front ends interfaced to a common ion trap mass spectrometer (ITMS) to provide comprehensive detection and structural characterization of potential molecular biosignatures in cryogenic fines collected by the Lander from the surface of Europa. Funding is provided by the Instrument Concepts for Europa Exploration 2 (ICEE-2) program.


Senior Scientist

NASA/GSFC - Greenbelt, MD

August 2019 - Present

Chief, Planetary Environments Lab

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD

October 2015 - August 2019

Associate Chief, Planetary Environments Lab

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD

April 2011 - September 2015

Research Space Associate

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center - Greenbelt, MD

September 2007 - August 2019

Senior Professional Staff

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory - Laurel, MD

November 1999 - September 2007


Ph.D. (Experimental Condensed Matter Physics), The Ohio State University (1995)

B.A. (Physics), The Johns Hopkins University (1990)

B.S. (Computer Science), The Johns Hopkins University (1990)



2023. "Detection of Short Peptide Biosignatures of Psychrophiles via Laser Desorption Mass Spectrometry." Astrobiology [Full Text] [10.1089/ast.2022.0138] [Journal Article/Letter]

2023. "Laser Desorption Mass Spectrometry of Cryogenic Samples on the Dragonfly Mission." 2023 IEEE Aerospace Conference [10.1109/aero55745.2023.10115534] [Proceedings]

2022. "Europan Molecular Indicators of Life Investigation (EMILI) for a Future Europa Lander Mission." Frontiers in Space Technologies 2 760927 [Full Text] [10.3389/frspt.2021.760927] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Laser Desorption Mass Spectrometry at Saturn’s moon Titan." International Journal of Mass Spectrometry 470 116707 [10.1016/j.ijms.2021.116707] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Planetary Mass Spectrometry for Agnostic Life Detection in the Solar System." Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences 8 (173): [Full Text] [10.3389/fspas.2021.755100] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Science Goals and Objectives for the Dragonfly Titan Rotorcraft Relocatable Lander." The Planetary Science Journal 2 (4): 130 [10.3847/psj/abfdcf] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Ocean Worlds: Science Goals for the Next Decade." Vol. 53, Issue 4 (Planetary/Astrobiology Decadal Survey Whitepapers) 53 (4): [10.3847/25c2cfeb.4b695863] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Investigating the effects of gamma radiation on selected chemicals for use in biosignature detection instruments on the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa." Planetary and Space Science 175 1-12 [Full Text] [10.1016/j.pss.2019.05.009] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Radiation Tolerance of Nanopore Sequencing Technology for Life Detection on Mars and Europa." Scientific Reports 9 (1): 5370 [10.1038/s41598-019-41488-4] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "The NASA Roadmap to Ocean Worlds." Astrobiology 19 (1): 1-27 [10.1089/ast.2018.1955] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "The Characterization of Biosignatures in Caves Using an Instrument Suite." Astrobiology 17 (12): 1203-1218 [10.1089/ast.2016.1568] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) laser desorption/ionization source design and performance characterization." International Journal of Mass Spectrometry 422 177 - 187 [] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "The Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) Instrument: Characterization of Organic Material in Martian Sediments." Astrobiology 17 (6-7): 655-685 [10.1089/ast.2016.1551] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Influence of trace aromatics on the chemical growth mechanisms of Titan aerosol analogues." Planetary and Space Science 140 27-34 [10.1016/j.pss.2017.03.012] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Unique capabilities of AC frequency scanning and its implementation on a Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer linear ion trap." The Analyst 142 (12): 2109-2117 [10.1039/c7an00664k] [Journal Article/Letter]

2017. "Molecular analyzer for Complex Refractory Organic-rich Surfaces (MACROS)." 2017 IEEE Aerospace Conference [10.1109/aero.2017.7943706] [Proceedings]

2016. "MOMA: the challenge to search for organics and biosignatures on Mars." International Journal of Astrobiology 15 (03): 239-250 [10.1017/s1473550416000227] [Journal Article/Letter]

2016. "Tandem mass spectrometry on a miniaturized laser desorption time-of-flight mass spectrometer." 2016 IEEE Aerospace Conference [10.1109/aero.2016.7500615] [Proceedings]

2015. "Carbonization in Titan Tholins: implication for low albedo on surfaces of Centaurs and trans-Neptunian objects." International Journal of Astrobiology 15 (03): 231-238 [10.1017/s1473550415000439] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "Organic molecules in the Sheepbed Mudstone, Gale Crater, Mars." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 120 (3): 495-514 [Full Text] [10.1002/2014JE004737] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "Detection of Trace Organics in Mars Analog Samples Containing Perchlorate by Laser Desorption/Ionization Mass Spectrometry." Astrobiology 15 (2): 104-110 [10.1089/ast.2014.1203] [Journal Article/Letter]

2015. "Design and Demonstration of the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) on the ExoMars 2018 Rover." IEEE Aerospace [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "A Compact Tandem Two-Step Laser Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer for In Situ Analysis of Non-Volatile Organics on Planetary Surfaces." IEEE 978-1-4799-1622-1/14 [Journal Article/Letter]

2014. "A comparative study of in situ biosignature detection spectroscopy techniques on planetary surfaces." 2014 IEEE Aerospace Conference [10.1109/aero.2014.6836262] [Proceedings]

2014. "Origin of Chlorobenzene Detected by the Curiosity Rover in Yellowknife Bay: Evidence for Martian Organics in the Sheepbed Mudstone? ." MSL Science Team, Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 45 1157- [Proceedings]

2014. "Volatile and Organic Compositions of Sedimentary Rocks in Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars." Science 343 6169 [doi:10.1126/science.1245267] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "A Habitable Fluvio-Lacustrine Environment at Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars." Science 343 (6169): 1242777-1242777 [10.1126/science.1242777] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "Volatile and Organic Compositions of Sedimentary Rocks in Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater, Mars." Science 343 (6169): 1245267-1245267 [10.1126/science.1245267] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "Evidence for perchlorates and the origin of chlorinated hydrocarbons detected by SAM at the Rocknest aeolian deposit in Gale Crater." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 118 (10): 1955-1973 [Full Text] [10.1002/jgre.20144] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "Volatile, Isotope, and Organic Analysis of Martian Fines with the Mars Curiosity Rover." Science 341 (6153): 1238937-1238937 [10.1126/science.1238937] [Journal Article/Letter]

2013. "Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) Mass Spectrometer for ExoMars 2018 and Beyond." IEEE Aerospace [Proceedings]

2013. "Evidence for perchlorates and the origin of chlorinated hydrocarbons detected by SAM at the Rocknest aeolian deposit in Gale Crater." J. Geophys. Res. 118 1955 – 1973 [10.1002/jgre.20144] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "The Sample Analysis at Mars Investigation and Instrument Suite." Space Sci Rev 170 (1-4): 401-478 [10.1007/s11214-012-9879-z] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "Rapid Assessment of High Value Samples: An AOTF-LDTOF Spectrometer Suite for Planetary Surfaces." IEEE Aerospace Conference Proceedings [10.1109/AERO.2012.6187060] [Proceedings]

2012. "Coordinated analyses of Antarctic sediments as Mars analog materials using reflectance spectroscopy and current flight-like instruments for CheMin, SAM and MOMA." Icarus 224 (2): 309-325 [10.1016/j.icarus.2012.05.014] [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "A Miniature Laser Desorption/Ionization Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer for in situ Analysis of Mars Surface Composition and Identification of Hazards in Advance of Future Manned Exploration." Concepts and Approaches for Mars Exploration 4302 [Proceedings]

2012. "Compact two-step laser time-of-flight mass spectrometer for in situ analyses of aromatic organics on planetary missions." Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry 26 1 [Journal Article/Letter]

2012. "Laser Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry for Future In Situ Planetary Missions." International Workshop on Instrumentation for Planetary Missions 1100 [Proceedings]

2011. "The laser ablation ion funnel: Sampling for in situ mass spectrometry on Mars." Planetary and Space Science 59 387 [Full Text] [10.1016/j.pss.2011.01.004] [Journal Article/Letter]

2010. "Development of an evolved gas-time-of-flight mass spectrometer for the Volatile Analysis by Pyrolysis of Regolith (VAPoR) instrument." International Journal of Mass Spectrometry 295 124-132 [Journal Article/Letter]


2021. "Deep Trek: Mission Concepts for Exploring Subsurface Habitability & Life on Mars — A Window into Subsurface Life in the Solar System." Vol. 53, Issue 4 (Planetary/Astrobiology Decadal Survey Whitepapers) 53 (4): [10.3847/25c2cfeb.5f50cebc] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Future planetary instrument capabilities made possible by micro- and nanotechnology." Micro- and Nanotechnology Sensors, Systems, and Applications XI [10.1117/12.2519455] [Proceedings]

2018. "A universal approach in the search for life at the molecular level." A White Paper in response to the ASTROBIOLOGY SCIENCE STRATEGY FOR THE SEARCH FOR LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE [Other]

2015. "Martian Chlorobenzene Identified by Curiosity in Yellowknife Bay: Evidence for the Preservation of Organics in a Mudstone on Mars ." Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 46 1178- [Proceedings]

2013. "Report of the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team." Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) [Full Text] [Report]

2013. "Two-step Laser Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry to Elucidate Organic Diversity in Planetary Surface Materials." 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference 2676 [Other]

Selected Public Outreach

Spaceflight Mass Spectrometry: 1963-2018

July 2014 - July 2014

ASMS presented a small exhibition featuring models of spaceflight mass spectrometers employed in the exploration of the Solar System over the past several decades. Mass spectrometers have contributed substantially to our understanding of planetary science and astrobiology, and their continued use has a bright future with new technologies under development. Displayed models include engineering units, flight spares, and demonstration reproductions from robotic planetary missions to Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Titan, and Mars. Experts were on hand to answer questions about instrument design, mission science achievements, and future directions associated with these one-of-a-kind instruments.