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
Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy