NASA has detailed one of the most unusual instruments of its new rover, explaining how Perseverance will map the red planet’s surface and what it is looking for. The Perseverance, launched as early as June, will land on Mars on February 18, 2021, in effect a six-wheeled mobile research laboratory.
Like Curiosity before it, many of the instruments the Perseverance carries will be designed to provide a perspective on Mars from the rover’s level. SuperCam, for example, is an instrument designed to identify and analyze the chemical composition of rock and wind fossils from a distance, while Mastcam-Z is a stereoscopic camera that gives the rover a unique “head” component.
In addition, it is equipped with RIMFAX, a radar imager for subsotrial experiments on Mars, with more attention to the ground that Perseverance will trek. Or, more specifically, something beneath the surface of Mars. NASA has equipped the rover with ground-wearing radar for the first time.
It uses the antenna at the lower end of the back end of the Perseverance – highlighted in blue above – to emit electromagnetic waves, which are then reflected back by different materials on the ground. NASA says the radar probes will be conducted every 10-20 cm (4-8 inches) of the rover’s travel and will provide detailed information about at least 30 feet underground. “By doing so, the instrument will reveal hidden geological layers and help find clues about past environments on Mars, especially those that may provide the necessary conditions to support life,” the space agency explained. “
Although the results will be two-dimensional, it is expected that the data will be layered and a three-dimensional model of the Martian subsoil will be given together with the camera images. Jezero Crater is both the landing point for the Perseverance and the area of its exploration, believed to have formed when an object collided with Mars billions of years ago. The 28-mile-diameter crater produces rocky material from deep inside the planet’s crust, an area thought to have a lake and a fan-shaped river data 3.5 billion years ago.
The lake may have played an important role in supporting microbial life on Mars, and NASA hopes RIMFAX will help find its modern remains. Together with other instruments of perseverance, ground-penetrating radars will be used to identify potential chemical, mineral and texture clues at possible locations. The rover will then collect core samples, package them for future Mars missions to recover, and return to Earth.
RIMFAX may be the first to be used on Mars, but the technology is already being used on Earth. In fact, it is the same technique used to locate underground utilities, find signs of buried caves, and study the composition of glaciers. The instrument, developed and manufactured by FFI, was tested on glaciers and named after the Nordic mythical night horse Hrímfaxi.