Tuesday, August 19, 2014

NASA's New Lander 'InSight' To Reveal Hidden Secrets Of Mars

Despite the fact that we have one of the most sophisticated rovers trundling around the surface of Mars, digging and investigating its geology, one non-profit thinks it can trump Nasa's extraordinary scientific feat. The answer? Penetrator probes.

These lightweight arrow-like devices could be fired into the Red Planet's surface, explains Explore Mars in an Indiegogo campaign. It would use excess kinetic energy from the journey towards Mars to achieve this. Once it hits the surface, it is designed to break in two. The top part remains stuck on the surface and is a radio transmitter that can translate data back to an orbiter. The tip of the penetrator probe continues into the ground to embed a "life-detection experiment" a couple metres beneath. The system is designed to detect if any microorganisms are living on Mars.

" We do know that Mars has all the elements required for life, and that all the geophysical and geochemical evidence suggests that Mars could have supported life -- and may still," says the organisation, run by the former director of Nasa's Mars Exploration Program  Doug McCuistion and a team of technology consultants and aeronautics experts. It continues: "From the findings of those missions, an intriguing body of evidence has been building indicating that if microbial life presently exists, it exists below the surface of Mars. While current Nasa missions are looking for evidence of past life, no Nasa mission is planned to look for current life. We believe this is a mistake. To find life on Mars, we actually need to look for life on Mars."

Exolance would be carried to Mars by another spacecraft. The mission could comprise several penetrator probes, known as 'Arrows', that would be held in a 'Quiver' on the carrier vehicle, which would safely transport them through the atmosphere.

The idea is to disperse the "arrows" in a number of places, to carry out these small scientific experiments across a multiple of Mars regions.

The Indiegogo campaign, which aims to raise $250,000 (£150,000), is designed to allow the organisation to build the "ExoLance" arrow prototypes within 12-14 months, for testing in the Mojave Desert. This will allow the team to practice launching the arrows, taking into account the atmosphere on Mars and how much force will be needed to penetrate the landscape to the right depths. Following these proof of concept missions, the team then plans on taking the technology to Nasa and other agencies.

Once through the atmosphere the lander carrying the Quiver would deploy its parachute and begin its gradual descent to the surface, at which point the Arrows would be released to various locations

"Could life exist below the surface, away from the radiation, dryness and temperature extremes, a number of metres below the surface, is that a more conducive environment today for life on Mars?" says McCuistion.

The Arrows would bury initially to about 6.5 feet (two metres). Using a drill, however, they could bury to a total depth of 16.5 feet (five metres) where life detection equipment would be deployed.

The European Space Agency has certainly already considered the possibility, having announced its ExoMars mission, which in 2018 will be launched to dig up to two-metres into Mars' surface in search of life. Currently, the location for where the ExoMars will do its digging, is up for debate. ExoLance trumps it here, as it would scatter a bunch of penetrator probes to hunt for signs of life.

No comments:

Post a Comment