Software upgrade for 19-year-old Martian water-spotter

Wed, 22 Jun 2022 04:56:37 GMT
Space Daily

Paris (ESA) Jun 22, 2022 The MARSIS instrument on ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, famous for its...

The MARSIS instrument on ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, famous for its role in the discovery of signs of liquid water on the Red Planet, is receiving a major software upgrade that will allow it to see beneath the surfaces of Mars and its moon Phobos in more detail than ever before.

Launched 19 years ago, on 2 June 2003, the orbiter has spent almost two decades studying Earth's neighbour and revolutionising our understanding of the history, present and future of Mars.

MARSIS - water on the Red Planet The Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding instrument on Mars Express was crucial in the search for and discovery of signs of liquid water on Mars, including a suspected 20-by-30 km lake of salty water buried under 1.5 km of ice in the southern polar region.

From Windows 98 to Mars 2022 "After decades of fruitful science and having gained a good understanding of Mars, we wanted to push the instrument's performance beyond some of the limitations required back when the mission began," says Andrea Cicchetti, MARSIS Deputy PI and Operation Manager at INAF, who led the development of the upgrade.

The new software was designed together by the INAF team and Carlo, and is now being implemented on Mars Express by ESA. It includes a series of upgrades that improve signal reception and on-board data processing to increase the amount and quality of science data sent to Earth.

"Previously, to study the most important features on Mars, and to study its moon Phobos at all, we relied on a complex technique that stored a lot of high-resolution data and filled up the instrument's on-board memory very quickly," says Andrea.

"There are many regions near the south pole on Mars in which we may have already seen signals indicating liquid water in lower-resolution data," adds ESA Mars Express scientist Colin Wilson.

"The new software will help us more quickly and extensively study these regions in high resolution and confirm whether they are home to new sources of water on Mars. It really is like having a brand new instrument on board Mars Express almost 20 years after launch."

The martian workhorse Old enough to vote in many places on Earth, Mars Express continues to deliver amazing science while remaining one of ESA's lowest-cost missions to fly.

Find out more about the other new scientific and operational activities Mars Express has recently enabled on the Mars Express blog.