University of Michigan simulations correctly predicted that the pulsed jets of the Mars Phoenix lander would strip the soil to the subsurface ice or rock as the craft touched down.
Photos of the area beneath the craft on Friday revealed a hard surface that scientists say may be ice. It could also be rock, and researchers won't know until the Phoenix can dig into the dirt. But it's clear the craft cleared away soil as it landed.
"This is exactly what was predicted by our group," said Nilton Renno, an associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences. "We've seen the most amazing photos of the hard surface under the thrusters. The brightness and smoothness suggests it is ice."
This would mark the first time a spacecraft has touched ice on another planet, Renno said.
Renno and Manish Mehta, a doctoral student in the same department, performed a series of tests for NASA over the past year in part to determine how the lander would affect the place it touches down. Phoenix's pulsed jet steering and braking system is unique.
Mehta performed the most recent simulations in April at NASA Ames Research Center using properly-sized crushed walnut shells and other fine dust particles to simulate the Martian soil. Mehta showed that the pulsed jets could cause a different, more explosive erosion than the continuous jets of the Viking spacecraft, which landed on Mars in 1976. The Phoenix landing process involved thrusters firing in bursts to slow the craft and guide it.
"In our simulations, the pulsed jets excavated to the hard, icy surface within less than a second. The pulses fluidized the bed under the thrusters, so that the soil behaves like water," Mehta said.
These results were presented at the Phoenix Science Team Meeting at Tucson, Ariz. on May 19 and a site-alteration report was submitted to JPL and Lockheed Martin.
Mehta suggested to the Phoenix science team that they check under its deck on Mars to find exposed ice.
Phoenix landed on Mars on May 25 and will spend the next three months analyzing soil and ice to uncover the history of water on the planet. Its mission is to determine whether the arctic plains there could support microbial life.
Renno is a co-investigator on the mission and lead of the Atmospheric Science Theme Group. He is studying the chemical composition of the soil and clouds in effort to determine how much water Mars has today and had in the past. Mehta is currently working on the reconstruction of the mission landing with NASA engineers at JPL.
For more information:
Mars Phoenix Project site: http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/news.php
U-M scientists simulate the effects of blowing Mars dust on NASA's Phoenix lander, news release and video: http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=5903
U-M scientist says Mars winds could pose challenges---but manageable ones---for NASA's Phoenix lander team, 2007 U-M news release: http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=5968
Nilton Renno: http://www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/public/experts/ExpDisplay.php?ExpID=1107Michigan Engineering:
Nicole Casal Moore | newswise
Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences