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:
NK_33
February 18, 2014

Russian Security Council approved the decision to deliver NK-33 rocket engines to USA where it will be used for Antares rockets. The issue has been…

full story
НП2
June 17, 2013

New manned spacecraft mock-up is to be presented at MAKS international aerospace show, – Federal Space Agency Head Vladimir Popovkin reported on Friday, June 14,2013….

full story
P8Qleh6K1LE
November 26, 2015

According to the ISS flight schedule station orbit was adjusted on November 25, 2015, to provide for future short 4-orbit docking of Soyuz TMA-19M spacecraft…

full story
FUz9CblT1IE
September 8, 2015

On September 7, 2015 Soyuz-STB booster with two European navigational satellites Galileo was rolled-out to the launchpad of Kourou spaceport. After installation Roscosmos specialists conducted…

full story
soyuz-u
July 22, 2013

3 Soyuz boosters were delivered to Baikonur from Samara on July 19. The train was transferred to the launchpad 112 where the boosters will be…

full story
Cygnus
September 24, 2013

RIA Novosti – For the second time in 24 hours, NASA and private commercial US rocket company Orbital Sciences on Monday pushed back the docking…

full story
1052153698
March 2, 2016

At 07:29, Moscow time, March 02, 2016, Soyuz TMA-18M descent capsule successfully landed in Kazakh steppe to 147 km of Jezkazgan town. The crew made…

full story
launch
February 14, 2017

Can you imagine something more stunning and spectacular than the lift-off of a spacecraft? Vegitel Company invites you to join an exclusive Baikonur launchsite tour…

full story