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  • richardmitnick 10:35 am on June 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Mars research, , the self-hammering "mole"   

    From JPL-Caltech: “InSight’s Team Tries New Strategy to Help the ‘Mole'” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    June 5, 2019

    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    Alana Johnson
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1501
    alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    1
    Engineers in a Mars-like test area at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory try possible strategies to aid the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) on NASA’s InSight lander, using engineering models of the lander, robotic arm and instrument.

    In this image, the model’s robotic arm is lifting up part of HP3 to expose the self-hammering mole that is partially embedded in the testbed soil. Standing mid-ground are engineers Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu (left) and Troy Lee Hudson (right). Lights in the testbed intended to simulate Mars’ lighting conditions give the image an orange tint. Engineers at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which provided HP3, have also been working on strategies to help the probe.

    A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

    For more information about the mission, go to https://mars.nasa.gov/insight.

    Scientists and engineers have a new plan for getting NASA InSight’s heat probe, also known as the “mole,” digging again on Mars. Part of an instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), the mole is a self-hammering spike designed to dig as much as 16 feet (5 meters) below the surface and record temperature.

    But the mole hasn’t been able to dig deeper than about 12 inches (30 centimeters) below the Martian surface since Feb. 28, 2019. The device’s support structure blocks the lander’s cameras from viewing the mole, so the team plans to use InSight’s robotic arm to lift the structure out of the way. Depending on what they see, the team might use InSight’s robotic arm to help the mole further later this summer.

    HP3 is one of InSight’s several experiments, all of which are designed to give scientists their first look at the deep interior of the Red Planet. InSight also includes a seismometer that recently recorded its first marsquake on April 6, 2019, followed by its largest seismic signal to date at 7:23 p.m. PDT (10:23 EDT) on May 22, 2019 – what is believed to be a marsquake of magnitude 3.0.

    For the last several months, testing and analysis have been conducted at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which leads the InSight mission, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which provided HP3, to understand what is preventing the mole from digging. Team members now believe the most likely cause is an unexpected lack of friction in the soil around InSight – something very different from soil seen on other parts of Mars. The mole is designed so that loose soil flows around it, adding friction that works against its recoil, allowing it to dig. Without enough friction, it will bounce in place.

    “Engineers at JPL and DLR have been working hard to assess the problem,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “Moving the support structure will help them gather more information and try at least one possible solution.”

    The lifting sequence will begin in late June, with the arm grasping the support structure (InSight conducted some test movements recently). Over the course of a week, the arm will lift the structure in three steps, taking images and returning them so that engineers can make sure the mole isn’t being pulled out of the ground while the structure is moved. If removed from the soil, the mole can’t go back in.

    The procedure is not without risk. However, mission managers have determined that these next steps are necessary to get the instrument working again.

    “Moving the support structure will give the team a better idea of what’s happening. But it could also let us test a possible solution,” said HP3 Principal Investigator Tilman Spohn of DLR. “We plan to use InSight’s robotic arm to press on the ground. Our calculations have shown this should add friction to the soil near the mole.”

    A Q & A with team members about the mole and the effort to save it is at:

    https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8444/common-questions-about-insights-mole/?site=insight

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

    Caltech Logo

    NASA image

     
  • richardmitnick 1:17 pm on May 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Before and after selfies reveals dust in the misson, , Mars research, , , The same winds that blanket Mars with dust can also blow that dust away.   

    From JPL-Caltech: “For InSight, Dust Cleanings Will Yield New Science” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    May 6, 2019

    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    This is NASA InSight’s second full selfie on Mars. Since taking its first selfie, the lander has removed its heat probe and seismometer from its deck, placing them on the Martian surface; a thin coating of dust now covers the spacecraft as well. NASA/JPL-Caltech

    2
    InSight’s first selfie. NASA/JPL-Caltech

    This selfie is a mosaic made up of 14 images taken on March 15 and April 11 – the 106th and 133rd Martian days, or sols, of the mission – by InSight’s Instrument Deployment Camera, located on its robotic arm.

    InSight’s first selfie showed its instruments still on the deck. Now that they’re removed, the viewer can see the spacecraft’s air pressure sensor (white object in center), the tether box for its seismometer and the tether for its heat probe running across the deck. Also visible is its robotic arm and grapple.

    JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

    A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

    The same winds that blanket Mars with dust can also blow that dust away. Catastrophic dust storms have the potential to end a mission, as with NASA’s Opportunity rover. But far more often, passing winds cleared off the rover’s solar panels and gave it an energy boost. Those dust clearings allowed Opportunity and its sister rover, Spirit, to survive for years beyond their 90-day expiration dates.

    Dust clearings are also expected for Mars’ newest inhabitant, the InSight lander. Because of the spacecraft’s weather sensors, each clearing can provide crucial science data on these events, as well – and the mission already has a glimpse at that.

    On Feb. 1, the 65th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, InSight detected a passing wind vortex (also known as a dust devil if it picks up dust and becomes visible; InSight’s cameras didn’t catch the vortex in this case). At the same time, the lander’s two large solar panels experienced very small bumps in power – about 0.7% on one panel and 2.7% on the other – suggesting a tiny amount of dust was lifted.

    For more information about InSight, visit:

    https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/

    For more information about Mars, visit:

    https://mars.nasa.gov

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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    NASA image

     
  • richardmitnick 9:07 am on April 24, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Mars research, ,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NASA’s InSight Lander Captures Audio of First Likely ‘Quake’ on Mars” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From JPL-Caltech

    April 23, 2019

    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    Dwayne Brown
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1726
    dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

    Alana Johnson
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1501
    alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov

    NASA’s Mars InSight lander has measured and recorded for the first time ever a likely “marsquake.”

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander

    The faint seismic signal, detected by the lander’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, was recorded on April 6, the lander’s 128th Martian day, or sol. This is the first recorded trembling that appears to have come from inside the planet, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surface, such as wind. Scientists still are examining the data to determine the exact cause of the signal.

    2
    This image, taken March 19, 2019 by a camera on NASA’s Mars InSight lander, shows the rover’s domed Wind and Thermal Shield, which covers its seismometer, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, and the Martian surface in the background. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech


    This video and audio illustrates a seismic event detected by NASA’s Mars InSight rover on April 6, 2019, the 128th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Three distinct kinds of sounds can be heard, all of them detected as ground vibrations by the spacecraft’s seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS): noise from Martian wind, the seismic event itself, and the spacecraft’s robotic arm as it moves to take pictures. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CNES/IPGP/Imperial College London

    “InSight’s first readings carry on the science that began with NASA’s Apollo missions,” said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!”

    The new seismic event was too small to provide solid data on the Martian interior, which is one of InSight’s main objectives. The Martian surface is extremely quiet, allowing SEIS, InSight’s specially designed seismometer, to pick up faint rumbles. In contrast, Earth’s surface is quivering constantly from seismic noise created by oceans and weather. An event of this size in Southern California would be lost among dozens of tiny crackles that occur every day.

    “The Martian Sol 128 event is exciting because its size and longer duration fit the profile of moonquakes detected on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions,” said Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters.

    NASA’s Apollo astronauts installed five seismometers that measured thousands of quakes while operating on the Moon between 1969 and 1977, revealing seismic activity on the Moon. Different materials can change the speed of seismic waves or reflect them, allowing scientists to use these waves to learn about the interior of the Moon and model its formation. NASA currently is planning to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024, laying the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

    InSight’s seismometer, which the lander placed on the planet’s surface on Dec. 19, 2018, will enable scientists to gather similar data about Mars. By studying the deep interior of Mars, they hope to learn how other rocky worlds, including Earth and the Moon, formed.

    3
    This set of images from the Instrument Deployment Camera shows NASA’s InSight lander placing its first instrument onto the surface of Mars, completing a major mission milestone. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    Three other seismic signals occurred on March 14 (Sol 105), April 10 (Sol 132) and April 11 (Sol 133). Detected by SEIS’ more sensitive Very Broad Band sensors, these signals were even smaller than the Sol 128 event and more ambiguous in origin. The team will continue to study these events to try to determine their cause.

    Regardless of its cause, the Sol 128 signal is an exciting milestone for the team.

    “We’ve been waiting months for a signal like this,” said Philippe Lognonné, SEIS team lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) in France. “It’s so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active. We’re looking forward to sharing detailed results once we’ve had a chance to analyze them.”

    Most people are familiar with quakes on Earth, which occur on faults created by the motion of tectonic plates. Mars and the Moon do not have tectonic plates, but they still experience quakes – in their cases, caused by a continual process of cooling and contraction that creates stress. This stress builds over time, until it is strong enough to break the crust, causing a quake.

    Detecting these tiny quakes required a huge feat of engineering. On Earth, high-quality seismometers often are sealed in underground vaults to isolate them from changes in temperature and weather. InSight’s instrument has several ingenious insulating barriers, including a cover built by JPL called the Wind and Thermal Shield, to protect it from the planet’s extreme temperature changes and high winds.

    SEIS has surpassed the team’s expectations in terms of its sensitivity. The instrument was provided for InSight by the French space agency, Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), while these first seismic events were identified by InSight’s Marsquake Service team, led by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

    “We are delighted about this first achievement and are eager to make many similar measurements with SEIS in the years to come,” said Charles Yana, SEIS mission operations manager at CNES.

    JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

    A number of European partners, including CNES and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), support the InSight mission. CNES provided the SEIS instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP. Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

    For more information about InSight, visit:

    https://www.nasa.gov/insight

    For more information about the agency’s Moon to Mars activities, visit

    https://www.nasa.gov/topics/moon-to-mars

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

    Caltech Logo

    NASA image

     
  • richardmitnick 12:35 pm on December 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AI at NASA, , , Mars research   

    From ars technica: “NASA’s next Mars rover will use AI to be a better science partner” 

    Ars Technica
    From ars technica

    12/6/2018
    Alyson Behr

    Experience gleaned from EO-1 satellite will help JPL build science smarts into next rover.

    NASA Mars 2020 rover schematic


    NASA Mars Rover 2020 NASA

    NASA can’t yet put a scientist on Mars. But in its next rover mission to the Red Planet, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is hoping to use artificial intelligence to at least put the equivalent of a talented research assistant there. Steve Chien, head of the AI Group at NASA JPL, envisions working with the Mars 2020 Rover “much more like [how] you would interact with a graduate student instead of a rover that you typically have to micromanage.”

    The 13-minute delay in communications between Earth and Mars means that the movements and experiments conducted by past and current Martian rovers have had to be meticulously planned. While more recent rovers have had the capability of recognizing hazards and performing some tasks autonomously, they’ve still placed great demands on their support teams.

    Chien sees AI’s future role in the human spaceflight program as one in which humans focus on the hard parts, like directing robots in a natural way while the machines operate autonomously and give the humans a high-level summary.

    “AI will be almost like a partner with us,” Chien predicted. “It’ll try this, and then we’ll say, ‘No, try something that’s more elongated, because I think that might look better,’ and then it tries that. It understands what elongated means, and it knows a lot of the details, like trying to fly the formations. That’s the next level.

    “Then, of course, at the dystopian level it becomes sentient,” Chien joked. But he doesn’t see that happening soon.

    Old-school autonomy

    NASA has a long history with AI and machine-learning technologies, Chien said. Much of that history has been focused on using machine learning to help interpret extremely large amounts of data. While much of that machine learning involved spacecraft data sent back to Earth for processing, there’s a good reason to put more intelligence directly on the spacecraft: to help manage the volume of communications.

    Earth Observing One was an early example of putting intelligence aboard a spacecraft. Launched in November 2000, EO-1 was originally planned to have a one-year mission, part of which was to test how basic AI could handle some scientific tasks onboard. One of the AI systems tested aboard EO-1 was the Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment (ASE), a set of software that allowed the satellite to make decisions based on data collected by its imaging sensors. ASE included onboard science algorithms that performed image data analysis to detect trigger conditions to make the spacecraft pay more attention to something, such as interesting features discovered or changes relative to previous observations. The software could also detect cloud cover and edit it out of final image packages transmitted home. EO-1’s ASE could also adjust the satellite’s activities based on the science collected in a previous orbit.

    With volcano imagery, for example, Chien said, JPL had trained the machine-learning software to recognize volcanic eruptions from spectral and image data. Once the software spotted an eruption, it would then act out pre-programmed policies on how to use that data and schedule follow-up observations. For example, scientists might set the following policy: if the spacecraft spots a thermal emission that is above two megawatts, the spacecraft should keep observing it on the next overflight. The AI software aboard the spacecraft already knows when it’s going to overfly the emission next, so it calculates how much space is required for the observation on the solid-state recorder as well as all the other variables required for the next pass. The software can also push other observations off for an orbit to prioritize emerging science.

    2020 and beyond

    “That’s a great example of things that we were able to do and that are now being pushed in the future to more complicated missions,” Chien said. “Now we’re looking at putting a similar scheduling system onboard the Mars 2020 rover, which is much more complicated. Since a satellite follows a very predictable orbit, the only variable that an orbiter has to deal with is the science data it collects.

    “When you plan to take a picture of this volcano at 10am, you pretty much take a picture of the volcano at 10am, because it’s very easy to predict,” Chien continued. “What’s unpredictable is whether the volcano is erupting or not, so the AI is used to respond to that.” A rover, on the other hand, has to deal with a vast collection of environmental variables that shift moment by moment.

    Even for an orbiting satellite, scheduling observations can be very complicated. So AI plays an important role even when a human is making the decisions, said Chien. “Depending on mission complexity and how many constraints you can get into the software, it can be done completely automatically or with the AI increasing the person’s capabilities. The person can fiddle with priorities and see what different schedules come out and explore a larger proportion of the space in order to come up with better plans. For simpler missions, we can just automate that.”

    Despite the lessons learned from EO-1, Chien said that spacecraft using AI remain “the exception, not the norm. I can tell you about different space missions that are using AI, but if you were to pick a space mission at random, the chance that it was using AI in any significant fashion is very low. As a practitioner, that’s something we have to increase uptake on. That’s going to be a big change.”

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Ars Technica was founded in 1998 when Founder & Editor-in-Chief Ken Fisher announced his plans for starting a publication devoted to technology that would cater to what he called “alpha geeks”: technologists and IT professionals. Ken’s vision was to build a publication with a simple editorial mission: be “technically savvy, up-to-date, and more fun” than what was currently popular in the space. In the ensuing years, with formidable contributions by a unique editorial staff, Ars Technica became a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, breakdowns of the latest scientific advancements, gadget reviews, software, hardware, and nearly everything else found in between layers of silicon.

    Ars Technica innovates by listening to its core readership. Readers have come to demand devotedness to accuracy and integrity, flanked by a willingness to leave each day’s meaningless, click-bait fodder by the wayside. The result is something unique: the unparalleled marriage of breadth and depth in technology journalism. By 2001, Ars Technica was regularly producing news reports, op-eds, and the like, but the company stood out from the competition by regularly providing long thought-pieces and in-depth explainers.

    And thanks to its readership, Ars Technica also accomplished a number of industry leading moves. In 2001, Ars launched a digital subscription service when such things were non-existent for digital media. Ars was also the first IT publication to begin covering the resurgence of Apple, and the first to draw analytical and cultural ties between the world of high technology and gaming. Ars was also first to begin selling its long form content in digitally distributable forms, such as PDFs and eventually eBooks (again, starting in 2001).

     
  • richardmitnick 9:39 am on August 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ESA/Mars Express Orbiter, , Mars research   

    From European Space Agency via Manu: “Mars and water” 


    From Manu Garcia, a friend from IAC.

    The universe around us.
    Astronomy, everything you wanted to know about our local universe and never dared to ask.

    [I used Manu’s article and not ESA’s because ESA did not provide an article in English and Manu always has a language choice.]

    ESA Space For Europe Banner
    Mars Express detects water buried under the south pole of Mars

    1

    Mars Express ESA used radar signals bounced through permafrost for evidence of a water tank buried in the southern polar cap.

    ESA/Mars Express Orbiter

    Twenty-nine specific observations were made between 2012 and 2015 in the region of Planum Australe at the South Pole using the Mars Advanced Radar for radar subsoil and Ionosphere Sounding, MARSIS instrument. A new mode of operation established in this period allowed the recovery of higher quality data than before the mission.

    The study area of ​​200 square km shown in the image on the left and radar traces on the surface are shown in the middle image for multiple orbits. The background image grayscale is an image of System Thermal Emission Imaging Odyssey Mars from NASA and highlights the underlying topography: a plain featureless with escarpments ice cream on the bottom right (south).

    Traces are encoded by colors corresponding to the “power” of the radar signal reflected by subsurface features. The large blue area near the center corresponds to the bright main area of ​​the radar, detected in many overlapping orbits of the spacecraft.

    Subsurface radar profile is shown in the right panel for one of the orbits of Mars. The characteristic bright horizontally at the top represents the frozen surface of Mars in this region. Laminates deposits south pole, layers of ice and dust, are at a depth of about 1.5 km. Below is a base layer in some areas is even brighter than the surface reflections, highlighted in blue, while elsewhere is quite diffuse. The analysis of the details of the reflected signals from the base layer produces properties corresponding to liquid water.

    The bright reflections are centered around 193 ° E / 81 ° S in orbits intersect, delineating a well-defined area 20 km wide.

    1
    Context map copyright: NASA / Viking; THEMIS background: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Arizona State University; MARSIS data: ESA / NASA / JPL / ASI / Univ Rome. R. Orosei and other 2018

    NASA THEMIS satellite

    The radar data collected by Mars Express ESA indicate the existence of a mass of liquid water under layers of ice and dust in the southern polar region of Mars.

    The vast networks of dry river valleys and huge overflow channels probes photographed by circumnavigating the globe realize the aquatic past of Mars. These orbiters, along with Landers and rovers surface also discovered minerals that could only be formed in the presence of liquid water.

    However, the climate has changed significantly over the 4,600 million years of history of the planet, and today can no longer be liquid water on the surface, so scientists are searching underground. Preliminary results from Mars Express, which has spent 15 years in operation, have detected water ice at the poles and subsurface layers mixed with powder.

    It has long been suspected of the presence of liquid water at the base of the poles; After the, studies on Earth have amply demonstrated that the melting point dela gua decreases under the pressure of a glacier. Furthermore, the presence of salts on Mars could further reduce the melting point of the water and make to remain liquid even at freezing temperatures.

    However, testing of advanced radar to investigate the ionosphere and subsurface of Mars, MARSIS, which was the first probe to orbit another planet radar, they were inconclusive … so far.

    The insistence of the scientists working with this instrument has allowed to develop new techniques to gather the widest possible set of high-resolution data and confirm.

    3
    The Mars Express ESA used radar signals bounced through layers
    underground ice to identify a water tank buried below the surface.
    This image shows an example of radar profile for one of the 29 orbits in the region of
    study of 200 x 200 km in the south polar region of Mars. The characteristic bright horizontally
    at the top corresponds to the frozen surface of Mars. The layers of deposits
    in South pole layers – layers of ice and dust – are at a depth of
    about 1.5 km. Below is a base layer in some areas is even
    brighter than reflections from the surface, while in other places is rather blurred.
    The bright reflections of the base layer, near the center of the image, focus
    around 193 ° E / 81 ° S in all orbits intersect describing an anomaly
    well defined 20 km wide subsurface which is interpreted as a pool of
    liquid water. Credit: ESA / NASA / JPL / ASI / Univ Rome. R. Orosei and other 2018.

    This radar, which penetrates beneath the surface, sends pulses to the surface to measure what it takes to bounce back and return to the ship and its intensity. The material properties influence the recovered signal, which makes it possible to map the subsurface topography.

    Research shows that the radar region of Mars south pole is formed by several layers of ice and dust with a maximum depth of 1.5 km in area 200 km wide analyzed in this study. Within an area of ​​20 km in diameter it has identified a particularly bright reflection of radar under layers of deposits.

    In analyzing the properties of the reflected radar signals and to consider the composition of the layers of deposits and the temperature profile expected under the surface, scientists interpret this bright feature as the connection point between ice and a stable body of liquid water , which may be loaded with saturated saline sediments. For MARSIS has been able to detect it, you should have a minimum thickness of several tens of centimeters.

    “This anomaly beneath the surface of Mars has properties that indicate that it is water or water-rich sediments,” says Roberto Orosei, MARSIS experiment’s principal investigator and first author of the article published yesterday in Science. “The study area covers a small area, but it is exciting to think there might be more water pockets elsewhere, yet to be discovered.”

    “We’ve spent years seeing signs of underground phenomena of interest but could not reproduce the result of orbit to orbit, since the sampling frequencies and resolution of our data so far were too low” adds Andrea Cicchetti, chief operating officer of MARSIS and coauthor the new article.

    “We needed to find a new mode of operation that would avoid some processing on board and allow higher sampling frequency to improve resolution of our data: now we can identify things that we were not able to see before.”

    5
    Trace Gas Orbiter ExoMars captured this view of part of the South Pole ice cap on Mars on May 13, 2018.

    ESA/ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter

    The poles of Mars have huge layers of polar ice caps similar to Earth in Greenland and Antarctica ice . These caps are composed primarily of water ice and deposited in layers containing varying amounts of dust. They are known as Mars polar deposits layers (PLD). Thanks to the mass guns dissect layered deposits, orbiting spacecraft in orbit can see the internal layered structure. The imaging system stereo and color Orbiter ExoMars, cassis surface, saw this segment of 7 x 38 km deposits layers frost near the margin of the South PLD, extending as far north as 73 ° S. Here, CASSIS has images of remaining deposits within a crater in this range.

    ESA ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter CASSIS

    5
    CaSSIS flight model. Photo credit: University of Bern

    Fine variations in the color and brightness of the layers are visible through the color filters of the camera. It highlights the bright ice deposits redder sand to the top of the image. The ExoMars program is a joint effort between ESA and Roscosmos. Credit: ESA / Roscosmos / cassis, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

    The finding points to a certain extent to Lake Vostok, discovered about 4 km under the ice of Antarctica. It is known that certain forms of microbial life thrive in subglacial environments on Earth, but bags of saline groundwater and sediment-rich water of Mars may be a suitable habitat, or have guessed in the past? It is not yet known whether there was life on Mars at some point, a question to which they try to answer Mars missions, including the current Russian-European ExoMars orbiter and rover future.

    “The long duration of Mars Express and the huge effort made by the radar equipment to overcome all challenges related to analysis have made this long-awaited result, demonstrating that the mission and its payload still have great scientific potential “says Dmitri Titov, Mars Express project scientist at ESA.

    “This fantastic discovery is a milestone for planetology and help us to better understand the evolution of Mars, the history of water on the planet and its habitability.”

    Mars Express was launched on 2 June 2003 and 25 December this year will be 15 years in space.

    Notes to editors

    The article Radar evidence of subglacial liquid water on Mars by R. Orosei et al., Is published in the journal Science.

    The MARSIS instrument was funded by the Italian space agency ASI and NASA, and was developed by the University of Rome (Italy) in collaboration with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA.

    From European Space Agency

    28/8/18
    For more information:
    Roberto Orosei
    MARSIS Principal Investigator
    INAF, Bologna, Italy
    Email: roberto.orosei@inaf.it

    Andrea Cicchetti
    MARSIS Operations Manager
    INAF, Rome, Italy
    Email: andrea.cicchetti@iaps.inaf.it

    Dmitri Titov
    ESA Mars Express Project Scientist
    Email: dmitri.titov@esa.int

    Markus Bauer
    ESA Science Communication Officer
    Tel: +31 71 565 6799
    Mob: +31 61 594 3 954
    Email: markus.bauer@esa.int

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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