27Mar2014

Chamber Created To Test Gear For The Red Planet

 Colony

NASA already has rovers scouring Mars and more missions in the works. In addition, Mars One claims that they will put the first colonists on the Red Planet in the early 2020s, at least they hope to.

and other governments and agencies are drafting plans for their own missions.

If all of this travel to Mars is going to be successful, especially the manned missions, it is important to know whether equipment designed on Earth is going to function effectively on Mars. To this end, researchers from Centro de Astrobiología, INTA-CSIC, and Instituto de Ciencias de Materials de Madrid have created a Mars simulation environment dubbed MARTE.

MARTE is designed to mimic, as closely as possible, conditions on the fourth planet from the Sun, including the infamous Martian dust. The chamber recreates conditions on Mars, including temperature, pressure, gas composition, and radiation to test instruments in “real” environmental operating conditions.

“Mars is a good place to learn about planets similar to ours and, as such, is the target of many NASA and European Space Agency missions. Our group is primarily involved in the Mars Science Laboratory mission to construct a meteorological station intended for future use on a rover to further explore Mars’ surface,” explained Jose Angel Martín-Gago, a research professor at the Instituto de Ciencias de Materials de Madrid, in a statement.

http://i.space.com/images/i/000/010/139/i02/mars500-simulated-marswalk-training.jpg?1307641293

Crew training for ‘Marswalk’ at the simulated martian terrain of the Mars500 experiment. The terrain, about 10 m long and 6 m wide, is covered with reddish sand and is built to resemble the surface

Previously, vacuum chambers enabled researchers to test equipment such as the meteorological sensors on the Curiosity rover, but the team is now studying other potential challenges, such as the Martian dust. “We’re simulating the effect of the Martian dust — one of the primary problems for planetary exploration — to gain a better understanding of how instruments behave when covered in dust,” said Jesus Sobrado, the scientist in charge of the machine’s technical development.

In addition to MARTE, the team has built chambers to simulate other environments including that of Jupiter’s frozen moon Europa, the interstellar and interplanetary regions.

Martín-Gago and colleagues are currently working with NASA on its mission to test the new meteorological station “Temperature and Wind for Insight,” associated with the InSight mission, and are also expected to test the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer and Sign of Life Detector instruments proposed for the next mission to Mars in 2020. Adapted from The State Column

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