Mars at home
03-26-2014

A group of researchers from the Center for Astrobiology (CAB, CSIC-INTA), in collaboration with the Institute of Materials Science of Madrid (ICMM, CSIC), has built a machine capable of simulating the atmospheric conditions of the planet Mars. This camera, installed in the CAB, is intended to test different types of & nbsp; instrumentation that are developed to fly towards the Red Planet. In this system atmospheric conditions similar to the one that the instruments are going to find there can be reproduced, and therefore can be calibrated and optimized with precision.

This new equipment has been developed mainly for validate the environmental sensors (Pressure, Air Temperature and Ultraviolet Radiation) of the REMS meteorological station (Rover Environmental Monitoting Station) of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), currently installed in the "Curiosity" robotic vehicle, which is find on the surface of Mars. This new machine has characteristics that make it unique in its kind. The first is that it allows the researcher to control the most relevant parameters with great precision and versatility, such as temperature, pressure, composition of the gas or ultraviolet radiation. The second is that a system capable of simulating Martian dust has been developed, the workhorse for most of the devices that are currently on the surface of Mars.

With this machine researchers will be able to test how the instrumentation responds to Martian conditions. For example, subjecting it to temperature cycles that simulate day and night, or the difference between the & nbsp; winter and summer (the temperature can be varied between
& nbsp; -150 and & nbsp; 150 0C); they can study the effect of pressure (which can be controlled 100 to a million times smaller than that of Earth), or of the composition of gases in the atmosphere, which is essentially CO2; they can radiate a device with ultraviolet radiation or study how it deteriorates by dust coating.

In the future, this machine will participate in new space missions, such as the new weather station "Temperature and Wind for Insight," associated with NASA's Insight mission, or SOLID or MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer) devices, proposed instrumentation for missions that will reach Mars in 2020.

More information

Scientific article : " Mimicking Mars: A vacuum simulation chamber for environmental testing instrumentation for Mars exploration ", JM Sobrado, J. Martín-Soler and JA Martín-Gago. Review of Scientific Instruments, 85, 035111 (2014). DOI: 10.1063 / 1.4868592.

Contact

Jesús Manuel Sobrado Vallecillo , Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA)

Javier Martín Soler , Centro de Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA)

José Ángel Martín-Gago , Institute of Materials Science of Madrid (CSIC) and Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA )

Scientific Culture Unit of the CAB: Luis Cuesta

 

Fuente: UCC-CAB

 

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