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Ulster Uni awarded UK Space Agency funding

Posted on 24 Sep 2019 and read 910 times
Ulster Uni awarded UK Space Agency fundingUlster University (www.ulster.ac.uk) researchers have been awarded funding by the UK Space Agency to help the European Space Agency determine the best route for the ExoMars rover, which is due to land on Mars in 2021.

The funding will be used to investigate the effect of wind on the landing site for the rover, which will search for signs of life — past and present — on the planet and investigate how the water and geochemical environment varies.

The ExoMars rover — named Rosalind Franklin — has been fitted with a high-definition camera called PanCam that will search for minerals or water.

Once it has identified and reached an area of interest, it will drill down into the surface to take a biopsy of the land by examining the samples it has collected in a self-contained laboratory.

The three-year project involving the Open University, the University of Aberystwyth and Ulster University aims to understand how the wind has shaped the Oxia Planum landing site on Mars.

Using Ulster University’s ‘state of the art’ 3-D computer modelling techniques, researchers will replicate winds that flow over the surface of Mars and the impact that the surface terrain will have on the rover’s route.

Lead researcher Derek Jackson said: “Using large-scale and smaller-scale atmospheric models, we will look at how the land surface on Mars can force winds into certain directions and alter wind speeds, and how wind patterns change the surface of the planet.

“As loose sand deposits can be a navigational hazard to the rover during its traverse across the surface, our work will help the European Space Agency to decide the optimal route for the rover in the months and years after landing.”