ExoMars rover

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ExoMars rover
ExoMars prototype rover 6.jpg
A prototype in Hatfield, England
Operator European Space Agency & Roscosmos
Major contractors Lander: Roscosmos
Rover: Astrium
Mission type Lander and rover
Launch date May 2018[1]
Launch vehicle Proton rocket
Mission duration ≥ 6 months
Homepage exploration.esa.int/mars/48088-mission-overview/
Mass 310 kg (680 lb), including drill and instruments[2]
Power Solar array
Mars landing
Date January 2019

The ExoMars rover is a planned robotic Mars rover, part of the international ExoMars mission led by the European Space Agency.[2][3]

The latest plan is to have a Russian launch vehicle, carrier module and lander deliver ESA's rover to Mars's surface in 2018.[4] Once safely landed on the Martian surface the solar powered rover would begin a six-month (218-sol) mission to search for the existence of past or present life on Mars. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, launched two years earlier in 2016, will operate as the rover's data-relay satellite.[5]

History[edit]

The rover is an autonomous six-wheeled terrain vehicle once designed to weight up to 295 kg (650 lb), approximately 100 kg (220 lb) more than NASA's 2004 Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity,[6] but about 605 kg (1,334 lb) less than NASA's Curiosity rover launched in 2011.

In February 2012, following NASA's withdrawal, the ESA went back to previous designs for a smaller rover,[7] once calculated to be 207 kg (456 lb). Instrumentation will consist of the exobiology laboratory suite, known as "Pasteur analytical laboratory" to look for signs of biomolecules or biosignatures from past or present life.[1][8][9][10] Among other instruments, the rover will also carry a 2-metre (6.6 ft) sub-surface drill to pull up samples for its on-board laboratory.[11]

As of March 2014, the lead builder the ExoMars rover, the British division of Airbus Defence and Space, has started procuring critical components.[12] The 2018 rover mission is still short by more than 100 million, or US$138 million.[12] The wheels and suspension system are paid by the Canadian Space Agency and are being manufactured by MDA Corporation in Canada.[12]

An early design ExoMars rover test model at the ILA 2006 in Berlin
Another early test model of the rover from the Paris Air Show 2007

Navigation[edit]

The ExoMars mission requires the rover to be capable of driving 70 m (230 ft) across the Martian terrain per sol to enable it to meet its science objectives.[13][14] The rover is designed to operate at least seven months and drive 4 km (2.5 mi), after landing in early 2019.[12]

Since the rover communicates with the ground controllers via the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, and the orbiter only passes over the rover approximately twice per sol, the ground controllers will not be able to actively guide the rover across the surface. The ExoMars Rover is therefore designed to navigate autonomously across the Martian surface.[15][16] A pair of stereo cameras allow the rover to build up a 3D map of the terrain,[17] which the navigation software then uses to assess the terrain around the rover so that it avoids obstacles and finds an efficient route to the ground controller specified destination.

On 27 March 2014, a "Mars Yard" was opened at Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage, UK, to facilitate the development and testing of the rover's autonomous navigation system. The yard is 30 by 13 m (98 by 43 ft) and contains 300 metric tons (330 short tons) of sand and rocks designed to mimic the terrain of the Martian environment.[18][19]

Payload[edit]

Mars rover being tested near the Paranal Observatory.

The scientific payload is as follows:[2]

Imaging system[edit]

Panoramic Camera System (PanCam)

The PanCam has been designed to perform digital terrain mapping for the rover and to search for morphological signatures of past biological activity preserved on the texture of surface rocks. The PanCam assembly includes two wide angle cameras for multi-spectral stereoscopic panoramic imaging, and a high resolution camera for high-resolution colour imaging.[20][21] The PanCam will also support the scientific measurements of other instruments by taking high-resolution images of locations that are difficult to access, such as craters or rock walls, and by supporting the selection of the best sites to carry out exobiology studies. Stained glass will be used to prevent ultraviolet radiation from changing image colors. This will allow for true color images of the surface of Mars.[22]

Core drill[edit]

The present environment on Mars is exceedingly hostile for the widespread proliferation of surface life: it is too cold and dry and receives large doses of solar UV radiation as well as cosmic radiation. Notwithstanding these hazards, basic microorganisms or their ancient remains may be found in protected places underground or within rock cracks and inclusions.[23] The ExoMars core drill is designed to acquire soil samples down to a maximum depth of 2 metres (6.6 ft) in a variety of soil types. The drill will acquire a core sample 1 cm (0.39 in) in diameter by 3 cm (1.2 in) in length, extract it and deliver it to the inlet port of the Rover Payload Module, where the sample will be distributed, processed and analyzed. The ExoMars drill embeds the Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies (Ma-Miss) which is a miniaturised infrared spectrometer devoted to the borehole exploration. The system will complete experiment cycles and at least two vertical surveys down to 2 metres (with four sample acquisitions each). This means that a minimum number of 17 samples shall be acquired and delivered by the drill for subsequent analysis.[24][25]

Analytical laboratory instruments[edit]

The science package in the ExoMars rover will hold a variety of instruments collectively called Pasteur suite;[8] these instruments will study the environment for habitability, and possible past or present biosignatures on Mars. These instruments are placed internally and used to study collected samples:[26][27]

Pasteur instrument suite[edit]

  • Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) is the rover's largest instrument. It will conduct a broad-range, very-high sensitivity search for organic molecules in the collected sample. It includes two different ways for extracting organics: laser desorption and thermal volatilisation, followed by separation using four GC-MS columns. The identification of the evolved organic molecules is performed with an ion trap mass spectrometer.[2] MOMA is being developed in partnership with NASA.[28] The Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research is leading the development. The mass spectrometer is provided from the Goddard Space Flight Center, while the GC is provided by the two French institutes LISA and LATMOS. The UV-Laser is being developed by the Laser Zentrum Hannover.
  • Infrared imaging spectrometer (MicrOmega-IR) is an infrared imaging spectrometer that can analyse the powder material derived from crushing samples collected by the drill.[2] Its objective is to study mineral grain assemblages in detail to try to unravel their geological origin, structure, and composition. These data will be vital for interpreting past and present geological processes and environments on Mars. Because MicrOmega-IR is an imaging instrument, it can also be used to identify grains that are particularly interesting, and assigned them as targets for Raman and MOMA-LDMS observations.
  • Raman spectrometer (Raman) will provide geological and mineralogical context information complementary to that obtained by MicrOmega-IR. It is a very useful technique employed to identify mineral phases produced by water-related processes.[29][30][31] It will help to identify organic compounds and search for life by identifying the mineral products and indicators of biologic activities (biosignatures).

External[edit]

  • Ground-penetrating radar, called WISDOM (for Water Ice and Subsurface Deposit Information On Mars) will explore the subsurface of Mars to identify layering and help select interesting buried formations from which to collect samples for analysis.[32] It can transmit and receive signals using two, small Vivaldi-antennas mounted on the aft section of the rover. Electromagnetic waves penetrating into the ground are reflected at places where there is a sudden transition in the electrical parameters of the soil. By studying these reflections it is possible to construct a stratigraphic map of the subsurface and identify underground targets down to 2 to 3 m (6.6 to 9.8 ft) in depth, comparable to the 2 m reach of the rover's drill. These data, combined with those produced by the PanCam and by the analyses carried out on previously collected samples, will be used to support drilling activities.[33]
  • Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies (Ma-MISS) is an infrared spectrometer located inside the core drill. Ma-MISS will observe the lateral wall of the borehole created by the drill to study the subsurface startigraphy, to understand the distribution and state of water-related minerals, and to characterize the geophysical environment. The analyses of unexposed material by Ma-MISS, together with data obtained with the spectrometers located inside the rover, will be crucial for the unambiguous interpretation of the original conditions of Martian rock formation.[2][34] The composition of the regolith and crustal rocks provides important information about the geologic evolution of the near-surface crust, the evolution of the atmosphere and climate, and the existence of past or present life.
  • Close-Up Imager (CLUPI), to visually study rock targets at close range (50 cm/20 in) with sub-millimetre resolution. This instrument will also investigate the fines produced during drilling operations, and image samples collected by the drill. The close-up imager has variable focusing and can obtain high-resolution images at longer distances.[2][27]

Russian instruments[edit]

  • The Infrared Spectrometer for ExoMars (ISEM),[27] for bulk mineralogy characterization, remote identification of water-related minerals and for aiding PanCam with target selection.

De-scoped instruments[edit]

The payload was rearranged several times. The last major one happened after the program switched from the larger MSL-like rover pack to the previous 300 kg (660 lb) rover design in 2012.[27]

  • Mars X-Ray Diffractometer (Mars-XRD) - Powder diffraction of X-rays will give exact composition of the crystalline minerals.[36][37] This instrument includes also an X-ray fluorescence capability that can provide useful atomic composition information.[38] The identification of concentrations of carbonates, sulphides or other aqueous minerals may be indicative of a Martian [hydrothermal] system capable of preserving traces of life. In other words, it will examine the past Martian environmental conditions, and more specifically the identification of conditions related to life.[27]
  • The Urey instrument was planned to search for organic compounds in Martian rocks and soils as evidence for past or present life and/or prebiotic chemistry. Starting with a hot water extraction only soluble compounds are left for further analysis. Sublimation, and capillary electrophoresis makes it possible to identify amino acids. The detection will be by laser-induced fluorescence, a highly sensitive technique, capable of parts-per-trillion sensitivity. These measurements will be made at a thousand times greater sensitivity than the Viking GCMS experiment, and will significantly advance our understanding of the organic chemistry of Martian soils.[27][39][40]
  • Miniaturised Mössbauer Spectrometer (MIMOS-II) provides the mineralogical composition of iron-bearing surface rocks, sediments and soils. Their identification would aid in understanding water and climate evolution and search for biomediated iron-sulfides and magnetites, which could provide evidence for former life on Mars.
  • The Life Marker Chip was for some time part of the planned payload. This instrument was intended to use a surfactant solution to extract organic matter from samples of martian rock and soil, then detect the presence of specific organic compounds using an antibody-based assay.[41][42][43]

Landing site selection[edit]

Mawrth Vallis with its potential clues on the history of water on Mars is a landing site-candidate

As of March 2014, the long list of proposed landing sites is:[44]


References[edit]

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  3. ^ Katz, Gregory (27 March 2014). "2018 mission: Mars rover prototype unveiled in UK". AP News. Retrieved 29 March 2014. 
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External links[edit]