This Wanderer After seven months of interplanetary travel, NASA’s perseverance reached the Red Planet on Thursday. Two of the seven instruments (MEDA and SuperCam) carried by the robot are of great significance in Spain and will help deepen scientific knowledge and propose the next step for human exploration.
This Wanderer perseverance -Percy, for his creators and friends-“speak” a little Spanish. NASA’s next scientific vehicle is about to come out Jezero Crater on MarsIf all goes well, next Tuesday, February 18th About 9:55 p.m. (This one).
Its main purpose is to search Evidence of ancient life, Although it will also deepen the understanding of this planet and help to propose the next step in the ultimate human exploration.
In order to achieve all of this, perseverance carries it Seven musical instruments They will collect images and data about the geology, atmosphere, and environmental conditions of the Red Planet to look for potential signs of past microbial life. In addition to storing samples from Mars and bringing them back to Earth on future missions, it will also test various technologies, such as small helicopters and oxygen production experiments.
From All instruments What is he wearing fifth Wanderer Marciano from NASA (After “Living in Home” in 1997, “Spirit and Opportunity” in 2004 and “Curiosity” in 2012), the following two tools are of great significance in the Spanish scientific community: MEDA and SuperCam.
MEDA: Not just an environmental protection station
Thank you Mida (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer, abbreviated in English), we can almost know the weather on Mars at any time of the day and every day. He smiled and said, “I’m making a joke every day because we haven’t decided on the calendar for Mars holidays.” Jose Antonio Rodriguez Manfredi, Center for Astrobiology (CAB, CSIC-INTA) And the lead researcher of the project.
As explained to SINC, MEDA integrates sensors at different points in the vehicle image Measure the sky of Mars and measure wind (horizontal and vertical), solar radiation, atmospheric pressure, relative humidity, temperature, and infrared and ultraviolet radiation. “All these together will allow us to see how Martian atmosphere and dustHe pointed out.
These dusts happen to be one of the most important substances in the atmosphere of the Red Planet.particle of Canonical They can be very subtle and cause complete changes in the atmospheric dynamics of the entire planet: “They can act as Radiation “screen” And full of energy, the temperature rises by about 10 or 12 degrees; the researchers said that it will affect the behavior of other instruments in a very serious way, thereby clogging the filter.
Images of all MEDA sensors attached to different parts of the Persistent Rover. / CAB, INTA-CSIC
However, the importance of MEDA is not limited to being a “weather station” on the Red Planet.Beside Moses (Experiments you can try Produce oxygen Carbon dioxide from Mars), the first to join Human exploration of Mars. Rodríguez Manfredi said: “Of course we can do science, but it is also important for future human missions to the earth.
From Sol 1 (On the first day of Mars after arrival), MEDA will be able to start and first verify that the system is functioning well.Then the instrument will remain Always activeEven in other parts of the world Wanderer Idle or free, thanks to Radioisotope generator Provide continuous energy for perseverance.
Data on temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, and radiation will help understand the weather patterns of Mars and plan future missions of humans and robots to the earth. /NASA/JPL-Caltech
“To study the environment, we need repeatability and consistency to collect data. If he Wanderer He is “sleeping” and is perfect for us. As long as the cable is not disconnected, our computer will continue to collect, and when “wake up”, Mida Transfer data to perseverance Send them to land“, explained to the Spanish engineer.
MEDA, designed and manufactured by the following companies Airbus, It’s him Third Spanish musical instrument Mars, sent to Mars, is the third environmental station led by the Center for Astrobiology after REMS (Curiosity) and TWINS (InSight), and it is still active.
From the name of the researchers, CAB has learned a lot from these “sisters”, whether it is their achievements or problems.The main difference from previous products is that MEDA has Three times the volume and mass, Combined with technological advancements that other sites don’t have, you will be able to measure Greater amplitude And will take more photos of the earth.
SuperCam: Five technologies in one
As far as the instrument is concerned Super camera Persevering Check rocks and minerals The Martians use five different techniques. On a mast that combines various technologies, this camera combines a laser and multiple spectrometers, which will help deepen the geological knowledge of the surface of Mars. It will analyze the different types of soil on the earth that can protect life, as well as the substances and elements that are toxic to humans.
But combining multiple technologies in one instrument will bring problemData measured by one technique may be surprising or unpublished, while another may think it is not conclusive or even irrelevant.This is where the research team from the University of Valladolid (Uva) works Fernando Ruhr: One Calipers All these data are meaningful.
“Usually, each technology and instrument has its own calibration system. However, when the instrument is coordinated, you must install a New system In order to be able to calibrate each technology and establish a correlation between them,” the researchers explained to SINC.
The calibration system is a A set of 28 samples, Its diameter-diameter disc with a very precise chemical composition is placed near the SuperCam mast, just above the radioisotope generator that powers the entire mission. “Each technology provides information about the content of its analysis, but it is novel to correlate all the data. This is why SuperCam is the most complex instrument to carry. Wanderer“, emphasizing Rull.
SuperCam is made by Los Alamos National Laboratory (EE.UU.), El Astrophysics and Planetary Science Institute (France IRAP), National Space Research Center France, University of Hawaii and University of Valladolid.
Perseverance SuperCam calibration system. /University of Valladolid
Robledo antenna, the key to communication
Another key point of this mission, also with Spain’s participation, is the Wanderer.Antenna Deep Space Network Located in Canberra (Australia), Goldstone (California, USA) and Robelet de Chaveira (Madrid) is essential for sending instructions to Perseverance and receiving all data.
Regarding the Spanish station, NASA confirms the antenna to SINC DSS 63At about 70 meters, it will communicate with the mission until it enters the Martian atmosphere, at approximately 9:48 pm (Spanish peninsula time), “At this time, communication will be lost and California will take control,” their details. The other antenna of the DSS-56 antenna, built by INTA and activated in January last year, will also receive signals from the Persistent Mission.
The inauguration of the new DSS-56 antenna at Robledo de Chavela station. / INTA
On the other hand, the antennas of the US and Spanish radio stations will be Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), this is a satellite in operation, it will start from Wanderer Once it landed on the surface of Mars. If perseverance is successful, it will participate in more than 40 missions supported by Robledo de Chavela station.
The biggest challenge after many years of work
Perseverance landed on the surface of Mars for only a few hours. Rodríguez Manfredi and Rull reviewed and remembered the greatest difficult The experience of working hand in hand with NASA over the years.
Regarding the MEDA researchers, he admitted time In the process of your mission, this has always been the biggest challenge. “It started with NASA’s call July 2014Since then, there hasn’t been a weekend we don’t have to Run He admitted.
Rodríguez Manfredi’s team had to work “in record time” for six years to be able to launch the mission at the end of July 2020: Starting from scratch Conceive the instrument, design it, analyze, manufacture, test, calibrate and deliver it to NASA before manufacturing the part.”
He admitted that although he didn’t stop realizing this, he breathed more calmly now. calendar, Waiting for Perseverance to arrive safely on Thursday night.Since then, his desire has been to use the power of this instrument to do what he likes most: “Mars science and contribute to the development of knowledge. It is a Dreams come true for meI”.
For Rull, he remembers all Decide Will affect this calibration system. “Define 28 samples “He admits and verifies them is a very complicated process, but placing and fixing them on the support can withstand the huge effort of launching, especially landing, which is the biggest challenge.”
The investigator regretted that he was unable to track the start and progress of the mission. In situDue to the limitations of the pandemic, come from Cape Canaveral in the United States or any surveillance center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He concluded: “This is one of the things that cause us the greatest pain, so we will watch it at home.”
Spanish companies participate in perseverance
Madrid-Barajas Airbus Center built High Gain Antenna System (HGAS) NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) will be used on Mars2020, which includes an X-band controllable transmit and receive antenna that will provide direct high-speed data communication with permanent rover.
Its activities include vibration, vacuum, radiation and extreme temperature testing of MEDA, as well as packaging design and MEDA ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) verification.
Through the Ramem company acquired in 2020, he has been responsible for manufacturing high-quality mechanical components for the ATS sensor (air temperature sensor) of the MEDA environmental station.
Crisa (a subsidiary of Airbus Defense and Aerospace) has made important contributions to the MEDA instrument (Dynamic Mars Environment Analyzer) through the complete development of control units and flight software, electronic product development, integration and testing of two wind sensors. Infrared sensor development and system engineering, mission quality assurance and the integration of a complete set of instruments will measure numerous environmental parameters during the entire mission.
Design, manufacture, verification and integration of high-gain antenna pointing mechanism (HGAGIn this way, direct two-way communication can be carried out between Hengxin and the tracking station on the earth.