Establishing whether life ever existed, or is still active on other planetary bodies today, is one of the outstanding scientific questions of our time. Life as we know it requires water, and search for life on Mars is centred on the question when and how much liquid water existed on the planet. Revealing the geological and environmental history in relation to water is a key issue in this regard.
NASA Mars 2020 rover launched from Cape Canaveral in July of 2020, arrived at Mars after a 7.5-month cruise in February of 2021. The Mars 2020 mission science goals are; determine Whether Life Ever Arose on Mars, characterize the Climate of Mars, characterize and sample the Geology of Mars and prepare for Human Exploration.
The Norwegian developed Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) RIMFAX is onboard the Mars 2020 rover. RIMFAX is imaging the shallow subsurface and characterizing the geology at the landing site. The project will study how RIMFAX can contribute to detecting possible subsurface water. The water can be in the state of ground ice, liquid brines or adsorbed water in the clay minerals. The project have startet analysing the RIMFAX data to find the wave velocity in the ground. The wave velocity gives an estimate of the density of the rocks in the subsurface.
The project will also develop a new low frequency instrument (Magnetic Induction Spectrometer ? MIS) with the possibility to directly measure the amount of ground ice or adsorbed water in the shallow Martian regolith. Combining the MIS and a GPR will give a map of the subsurface water to support scientific exploration and in-situ resource utilization.
The main objective is to support NASAs Mars 2020 rover mission by examining the electromagnetic properties and architecture of subsurface deposits and interpreting the geology of the planet at the Jezero landing site. The project will establish a RIMFAX Science Operation Center (RSOC) at the Department of Technology Systems at the University of Oslo, which will have access to the data from the entire instrument suite on-board the Mars 2020 rover. The ground-penetrating Radar Imager for Mars´ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) on-board the rover will be the key instrument for the project.
The project will use RIMFAX to understand the geological and environmental history of the landing site and determine the possibility for brines in the shallow subsurface.
The project will develop next generation geophysical instrument for mapping planetary water by combining a Ground Penetration Radar and a Magnetic Induction Spectrometer thereby getting both the composition and the stratigraphy of the shallow subsurface.