NORWEGIAN TECH AIDES NASA TO SEARCH FOR LIFE ON MARS

| SCIENCE NEWS

The Mars 2020 rover mission is a planetary rover mission concept under study by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. NASA will send a spacecraft to Mars carrying a space exploration vehicle inside designed to move across the surface of the planet. The Norwegian radar RIMFAX will join the mission with a proposed launch in 2020. RIMFAX will add a new dimension to the rover’s toolset by providing the capability to image the shallow subsurface beneath the rover in unprecedented detail. In this way RIMFAX will aid the rover to explore the ancient habitability of its field area, and select a set of promising samples that will eventually be returned for Earth.

rimfax_681
The Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Exploration (RIMFAX) (Photo: FFI)

A ground penetrating radar is a geophysical method that is widely used on Earth to study subsurface bedrock, soils, groundwater and ice. It sends radio frequency electromagnetic waves into the ground and then detects the reflected signals to reveal subsurface structure as well as composition.

The Norwegian Defence Research Establishment got tasked with developing technology for NASA’s next “Mars rover” to follow in the footsteps of the rover Curiosity that landed on Mars i 2012. The RIMFAX team is led by Svein-Erik Hamran, FFI/ UiO. He will be there at the launch and in the control room in California to follow the rover continuously after its landing. The rover will land near the equator line, which researchers believe may have been climate for liquid water in the past. There, Hamran and the FFI radar will paly a key role in examining minerals, rocks and other conditions.

– The surface is covered by dust, so it’s hard to say what you might be driving on over there. The radar will be able to expose it, he explains.

The measurements it sends back to Earth might give us the evidence prooving life on Mars.

rimfax_hamran_681
Svein Erik Hamran, FFI, and professor at UiO, is coming to The CuttingEdge Festival to talk about The Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface exploration (RIMFAX) (Photo: Kjell Ove Storvik, Bodø NU)

Do you want to see the rover Curiosity taking a selfie on Mars?
Read more about the project here

Watch the talk from Cutting Edge 2015 below.