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Field-Site Prototype for HABIT (FSP-HABIT): Characterizing Martian Salts Prior to the ExoMars 2020 Mission
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering, Space Technology. (Atmospheric Science Group)
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

One of the major remaining question about Mars is its habitability - if the requirements necessary to allow for life are presently fulfilled. One of the most relevant ingredients for life, as we know it, is water. Indirect evidence of transient liquid water on Mars has been retrieved from both rover [Martín-Torres et al., 2015] and orbiter [Ojha et al., 2015].

[Martín-Torres et al., 2015] inferred the existence of an active water cycle, driven by chlorate and perchlorate salts, which are commonly found on the Martian surface, and absorb atmospheric water to form stable hydrated compounds and liquid solutions. This happens through a process called deliquescence (absorption of moisture from the atmosphere by the salts and dissolving into a liquid solution). One of the goals of HABIT is to confirm the hypothesis about the water cycle on Mars. HABIT will record the behavior of a selection of salts on Mars, and will also record Martian environmental conditions (UVdose, air and ground temperatures).

The Field-Site Prototype for HABIT (FSP-HABIT) was the first prototype of HABIT deployed during field-site campaigns. Three campaigns took place during summer 2016: First, a short preparatory campaign in Abisko, Sweden, was carried out. The second campaign took place in Iceland, within the EU COST Action TD1308 ORIGINS (Origins and evolution of life on Earth and in the Universe), and the third campaign was conducted within the NASA Spaceward Bound India Program in Ladakh. After providing the corresponding background on the mission framework and the scientific background, this document covers the mechanical, electrical, and software design of the instrument. Afterwards, the steps taken to test the instrument and their results are covered, followed by a rating of the instrument and ideas for future improvements. Instruments like FSP-HABIT will enable the characterization of hygroscopic salts by their conductivity as liquid brines are good conductors, hydrated salts are poor conductors, and dehydrated salts are insulators. During the field-site campaigns, the measurements of FSP-HABIT were used to characterize the near surface environment by its temperature, pressure and relative humidity. Now, these measurements are available for comparison with microbiological studies of the water, ice and soils to characterize the habitability of the explored site. The lessons learned while designing and building FSP-HABIT can be used to inform the development of further prototypes for space missions such as HABIT.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 124 p.
Keyword [en]
Mars Brine Perchlorate Chloride HABIT ExoMars ESA IKI Prototype Conductivity BOTTLE ENVPACK Salt
National Category
Aerospace Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-61070OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-61070DiVA: diva2:1056051
Educational program
Space Engineering, master's level (120 credits)
Supervisors
Examiners
Projects
Habitability, Brines, Irradition and Temperature (HABIT)
Available from: 2016-12-22 Created: 2016-12-13 Last updated: 2016-12-22Bibliographically approved

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