. >>> is there life on mars in that's been asked for so long. arlington chemistry professor is developing an invention that's caught the attention of nasa. >> reporter: when nasa came calling they really came calling. >> my reaction was i don't have to go hunting for money. >> reporter: nasa has given the professor with a $1.2 million grant to develop a specialized item that could possibly detect the beginning stages of life on mars. >> the story is people have been asking this question, if there is life on mars, it's a big question. sort of that is there organic on mars? >> reporter: he is looking for those building blocks in the soil on mars. the grant will help him develop something that can identity a broad rake range of ions. >> we will find things we weren't necessarily looking for, there are a lot of surprises in store. >> reporter: in theory soil from mars would be flushed through i tube. this is a tube. it looks like a fishing line but it's actually a tube. >> reporter: the idea is to separate the ions in the soil, they could be the key to determing if life on mars exts. it's no wonder that
uta grad student is thrilled to be part of it. >> it'll be great to have some sort of hand and form in actually finding are the building blocks on mars for life. >> reporter: the professor's instrument will be tested on earth for at least four year was the goal of sending it to mars by 2020. jay gormley.