Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UI search for water on Mars set for June 2 launch

04.06.2003


NASA-funded project to search for underground water on Mars



University of Iowa professor and space physicist Don Gurnett is hoping to receive an uplifting word from western Asia on Monday.

That’s because Gurnett heads a $7 million, NASA-funded project to search for underground water on Mars, a project whose radar instrument is aboard the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft using a Soyuz rocket and scheduled for launch at 12:45 p.m. CDT Monday, June 2 from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.


Called MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding), the joint Italian-U.S. project includes the University of Rome and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Co-Investigator Gurnett at the University of Iowa.

Gurnett and his UI colleagues Rich Huff, Don Kirchner and Jim Phillips developed the 130-foot-long antenna and related electrical instruments that the Mars-orbiting spacecraft will use to probe several miles beneath the planet’s surface, as well as study the ionosphere in the Martian skies. Rockwell Collins of Cedar Rapids designed the radio transmitter, which is coupled to the antennas. The entire MARSIS instrument weighs 12 kilograms, or about 26 pounds. The UI radar package is one of eight instruments aboard the craft, scheduled to arrive at Mars in late December.

Gurnett says that the project offers an excellent opportunity to learn what happened to the water that most scientists believe was responsible for shaping the planet’s deep canyons, some of which are longer and deeper than the Grand Canyon. Because the planet’s atmospheric pressure is extremely low, liquid water would have long ago evaporated from the surface. Results gathered by Mars Global Surveyor suggest that water may exist below the surface. Water may exist just below the surface in the form of permafrost and, farther down, as a liquid due to radioactive heating from the interior of the planet.

"Our objective is to use a low-frequency radar to penetrate the Martian surface to a depth of five kilometers -- about three miles," he says. "As the radar signal penetrates into the permafrost, we should be able to detect a strong radar reflection from the ice-water interface. The hope is that we’ll be able to detect the interface and tell how much water is there." Other radar echoes should reveal boundaries between different kinds of geologic materials, such as layers of lava, sheets of sand, sediments, debris from impacts, and ice-rich rock and soils.

The other part of the project involves examining the Martian ionosphere, the electrically charged layer of the upper atmosphere that on Earth reflects radio signals back to the ground, sometimes hundreds of miles from their point of origin. Researchers will bounce radar signals off of the ionosphere and measure the time delay of the signals to learn the shape and height of the ionosphere.

Gurnett’s UI research team for many years has specialized in the construction of low-frequency, space-borne radio systems. Unlike the much-higher frequency radars normally used by airplanes and spacecraft to map surface features, the low-frequency radar provided by the UI team will penetrate deep beneath subsurface rocks and permafrost on Mars. The UI team has provided low-frequency radio antennas and receivers for numerous spacecraft, including Cassini, scheduled to arrive at Saturn in 2004.

Gurnett, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is a veteran of more than 25 major spacecraft projects, including the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 flights to the outer planets, the Galileo mission to Jupiter, and the Cassini mission to Saturn. He made the first observations of plasma waves and low-frequency radio emissions in the magnetospheres of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune and discovered lightning in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Neptune. Gurnett and his UI colleagues have over 120 years of spacecraft instrument design and construction between them.


STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 301, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Gary Galluzzo, Writer, 319-384-0009, mailto:gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu; Franco Bonacina, European Space Agency, 33-1-5369-7713

Gary Galluzzo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uiowa.edu/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Researchers demonstrate three-dimensional quantum hall effect for the first time
19.08.2019 | Singapore University of Technology and Design

nachricht A laser for penetrating waves
19.08.2019 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A miniature stretchable pump for the next generation of soft robots

Soft robots have a distinct advantage over their rigid forebears: they can adapt to complex environments, handle fragile objects and interact safely with humans. Made from silicone, rubber or other stretchable polymers, they are ideal for use in rehabilitation exoskeletons and robotic clothing. Soft bio-inspired robots could one day be deployed to explore remote or dangerous environments.

Most soft robots are actuated by rigid, noisy pumps that push fluids into the machines' moving parts. Because they are connected to these bulky pumps by tubes,...

Im Focus: Vehicle Emissions: New sensor technology to improve air quality in cities

Researchers at TU Graz are working together with European partners on new possibilities of measuring vehicle emissions.

Today, air pollution is one of the biggest challenges facing European cities. As part of the Horizon 2020 research project CARES (City Air Remote Emission...

Im Focus: Self healing robots that "feel pain"

Over the next three years, researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, University of Cambridge, École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la ville de Paris (ESPCI-Paris) and Empa will be working together with the Dutch Polymer manufacturer SupraPolix on the next generation of robots: (soft) robots that ‘feel pain’ and heal themselves. The partners can count on 3 million Euro in support from the European Commission.

Soon robots will not only be found in factories and laboratories, but will be assisting us in our immediate environment. They will help us in the household, to...

Im Focus: Scientists create the world's thinnest gold

Scientists at the University of Leeds have created a new form of gold which is just two atoms thick - the thinnest unsupported gold ever created.

The researchers measured the thickness of the gold to be 0.47 nanometres - that is one million times thinner than a human finger nail. The material is regarded...

Im Focus: Study on attosecond timescale casts new light on electron dynamics in transition metals

An international team of scientists involving the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has unraveled the light-induced electron-localization dynamics in transition metals at the attosecond timescale. The team investigated for the first time the many-body electron dynamics in transition metals before thermalization sets in. Their work has now appeared in Nature Physics.

The researchers from ETH Zurich (Switzerland), the MPSD (Germany), the Center for Computational Sciences of University of Tsukuba (Japan) and the Center for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

The power of thought – the key to success: CYBATHLON BCI Series 2019

16.08.2019 | Event News

4th Hybrid Materials and Structures 2020 28 - 29 April 2020, Karlsruhe, Germany

14.08.2019 | Event News

What will the digital city of the future look like? City Science Summit on 1st and 2nd October 2019 in Hamburg

12.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stanford builds a heat shield just 10 atoms thick to protect electronic devices

19.08.2019 | Information Technology

Researchers demonstrate three-dimensional quantum hall effect for the first time

19.08.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Catalysts for climate protection

19.08.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>