Perseverance Rover Scientists Make Plans for Mars

Robert SullivanI’m a Co-Investigator with Mastcam-Z and MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer) on the Mars 2020 mission, working as a researcher at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. I’ve been fortunate to work on the Galileo mission to Jupiter, Mars Pathfinder, the dual Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, and the at the moment energetic Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. Time “Earth-side” has included gaining scientific views from experiments in wind tunnels, and from geologic subject work in California, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, Utah, Scotland, and Iceland.For the Mars 2020 strategic planning train, I’ve participated within the “Atmosphere” group (whereas attempting to comply with the deliberations of a number of of the opposite teams, as properly). Immediately after touchdown, everybody on the workforce will really feel the strain to quickly compile a complete “cache” of sealed samples representing essentially the most vital supplies within the Jezero crater area—excessive sufficient in science worth to justify return to Earth later by a follow-on mission (a fairly excessive bar to be striving for). The clock might be ticking loudly in our ears, after all, as quickly because the rover’s six wheels first contact the martian floor.As is perhaps guessed, the work of the Atmosphere group has been a bit completely different from the opposite teams, emphasizing basic questions which might be related throughout a lot of the martian floor, not simply close to the Jezero crater touchdown space. Examples: How strongly should winds blow within the skinny martian ambiance to lift mud right into a mud storm, or to blow sand alongside the floor to type ripples and dunes seen broadly throughout the martian floor? What mixture of Perseverance digital camera observations mixed with wind pace measurements may reply these long-standing questions? In truth, different strategic teams have additionally been doing their work with a watch towards leveraging Jezero science to handle broader-scale basic questions on Mars. The science group expects this, and so does the general public. This is as a result of our neighboring planet is so arduous to get to, is visited so sometimes, and our explorations to this point have been extraordinarily restricted, all of which makes our coming time on the floor with Perseverance treasured for many causes.The “caching” of samples might sound at first look to be a purely geological activity, however this isn’t so. In the Atmosphere strategic group, one problem has been to remind the remainder of the workforce that the atmospheric atmosphere and the way this interacts with the floor at the moment, and previously, impacts mission effectivity and impacts interpretation of floor supplies in a number of methods. For instance, a lesson drawn from earlier rover expertise on the MER Opportunity touchdown web site is that wind can manage the native floor supplies conveniently in response to composition, and probably with important clues to the previous function of water: At Opportunity’s Meridiani Planum touchdown web site, wind-related processes had concentrated hematite-enriched aqueous concretions collectively at ripple crests, the place their composition could possibly be measured most successfully. These small concretions had as soon as been scattered sparsely inside weaker sedimentary supplies, now lengthy eroded away, that beforehand had been saturated with water. It was these humble, but resistant concretions, concentrated by the wind at ripple crests, that turned out to be the supply of the hematite signature sensed from orbit that drew the Mars Exploration Rover mission to the Meridiani Planum touchdown web site to start with.At Jezero crater, a chief goal of the Perseverance rover might be supplies carried by water that after poured into the crater, forming delta deposits which have since been partly eroded away and re-worked by the wind. What erosionally-resistant supplies—maybe originating from exterior Jezero crater—may need been swept onto the crater ground space by a delta-forming river, then reworked by the wind and concentrated for handy and environment friendly inspection on the crests of huge ripples? Are these prospects value inspecting in some unspecified time in the future alongside our traverse? This is one instance of the various various concepts that the Atmosphere strategic group has been evaluating to extend the effectiveness and worth of rover operations after touchdown.

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