Towable ‘ScanMars’ Water Radar Tested on Earth

“Analog astronauts” have tested a hand-held ground penetrating radar designed for detecting water. The Mars-like Dhofar region of Oman provides a close approximation to similar conditions on the red planet.

Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica’s (INAF) Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali and the University of Perugia

a towable radar designed to look for water on Mars

the ScanMars ground penetrating radar tested in the Mars-like terrain in the Dhofar region of Oman by a team of analog astronauts during the February 2018 AMADEE-18 analog mission.

We’ve spotted underground water reservoirs from orbit, but they are more then a kilometre beneath the surface. In order for astronauts or rovers to begin smaller drilling operations earlier on we need some kind of water-detector that functions sort of like a metal detector on Earth.

compact subsurface radar system four week simulated mars mission conducted by astronauts

real suits are ten milastronauts use cheaper, simplified suits to practice the kind of tasks that future explorers will need to carry out on Mars

towable radars have been used on Earth for decades by geologists, archaeologists, surveyors, and civil engineers to map out underground structures and their composition, but that requires skilled operators. Training the non-expert analog astronauts was thus a key objective of the project during AMADEE-18.

trained at the Austrian Space Forum facilities in Innsbruck covered four distinct geological areas with a total of 70000 radar readings to a maximum depth of 16 feet (5 metres)

The innovative element of ScanMars with respect to common radar fieldwork is that the data was acquired by the analog astronauts and not the scientists,” says Alessandro Frigeri of INAF. “This means that the astronauts’ training has become a key part of the experiment.

“The data quality is very good and, even if we are not yet able to distinguish unambiguously the presence of water, we can find alluvial structures that could guide future astronauts to dig where they are most likely to find water,” adds Frigeri. “In view of the recent discovery of liquid water beneath the surface of Mars, it’s very timely to look ahead to the development of techniques that future explorers could use to analyze the Martian subsurface.”

The results will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress(EPSC) 2018 in Berlin.

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