RedEaredSlider writes "From the IB Times article: 'Researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have come up with an idea to improve on an old standby of space exploration instruments and improve the odds of finding life, if any, on Mars. By adding a laser and an ion funnel to a mass spectrometer, it is possible to analyze the elements from the Martian surface directly, without the complex handling samples usually needed... The new version uses a two-step technique. First it shoots a laser at the sample's surface. This creates a plume of molecules and ions. To get the ions into the mass spectrometer, the new system uses an ion funnel. The ion funnel uses conductive, progressively smaller electrodes in the shape of a ring that attract the ions, effectively vacuuming them into the mass spectrometer.'"