187055231
February 1, 2014
Categories: Mars, NASA, Russia, Science

RIA Novosti – Russian scientists have proposed an instrument for an upcoming NASA Mars rover to search for underground water that could support life on the Red Planet, a lead scientist at the institute that submitted the project said Thursday.

“On the surface everything looks the same, just layers of dust and rock, but our instrument can see minerals of scientific interest underground,” Igor Mitrofanov told RIA Novosti.

The NORD instrument designed by Russia’s Space Research Institute was one of 58 proposals submitted to NASA earlier this month for inclusion on the agency’s upcoming Mars 2020 rover. NASA is due to announce the chosen experiments in March.

The Russian instrument would build on earlier water-scanning devices built by the institute for a series of NASA probes.

One of those devices, the High Energy Neutron Detector on the Mars Odyssey orbiter, helped detect huge quantities of frozen underground water on the Red Planet in 2002. A later NASA mission, the Phoenix lander, confirmed that finding.

Last year, a similar device aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered that some regions of Martian soil contain as much water – six percent by weight – as soil in deserts on Earth where microbes are known to live.

That instrument works by beaming high-energy neutrons deep into the ground. Hydrogen atoms trapped in water molecules absorb some of the neutrons.

The new detector will instead look for gamma radiation produced when cosmic rays crash into the Martian surface.

“With gamma rays we can see the elemental composition of the soil. The spectral lines that are emitted by the soil when bombarded by cosmic rays indicate how much iron, silicon, calcium, etc. are present under the surface,” Mitrofanov said.

The rover is planned to be able to dig up soil during its journey across the Red Planet and store it on board. Ultimately it could be offloaded onto a future lander and launched back to Earth for laboratory analysis.

“The most favorable conditions for life on Mars existed 3 billion years ago, which is why detecting it is so difficult. It cannot be done with a relatively simple and compact device that can be placed on a Mars rover,” Mitrofanov said.

Russia’s sample return mission to the Martian moon Phobos failed to leave Earth’s orbit and burned up in the atmosphere two years ago, but the head of the Lavochkin company that built the craft said Tuesday that a similar mission could be ready to transport Martian soil to Earth by 2024.

Image - a sketch of the NORD rover designed by Russia’s Space Research Institute, credit – NASA

comments

More from this category:
GCTC-MSU
April 24, 2013

The cooperation between Gagarin cosmonaut Training Center and Moscow State University lasts for several decades. In 1983-2003 it was the most efficient when GCTC and…

full story
Soyuz lands with ISS crew
March 12, 2015

Today on March 18 ISS-41/42 crew comprising Roscosmos cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyayev and Elena Serova and NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore successfully returned to the Earth onboard…

full story
1011352468
October 27, 2014

Progress M-24M cargo vehicle undocked from the ISS and will be flying in space up to November 20. During the flight “Reflection” scientific experiment will…

full story
iss1
April 4, 2014

On Thursday International space station performed a maneuver to avoid collision with the old European booster’s Ariane 5 debris, – NASA reports. According to specialists…

full story
Progr_M_22M
December 16, 2013

Russian cargo vehicle Progress M-22M that is to be launched in the framework of ISS program on February 5, 2014 with the help of Soyuz-U…

full story
0133
September 10, 2015

Dear space fans, Vegitel Tour Company announces group admission for next zero-g mixed group flight onboard IL-76 MDK scheduled for spring 2016. Do you still…

full story
radioastron1
August 16, 2013

Green Bank observatory antenna received the data from Russian Radiastron (Spektr-R) space telescope for the first time. This new tracking station in other hemisphere enables…

full story
crew exams
April 23, 2014

Main and back-up crews of ISS-40/41 mission started passing exams. After examination session the cosmonauts and astronauts will have examinational trainings concluding their preflight preparations…

full story