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NASA Glenn Research Center is Developing Aqueous Technology to Search Life on Mars' Waters

Dec 09, 2016 12:10 PM EST
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Nasa building new rover for Mars 2020 mission

The NASA Glenn Research Center is teaming up with the University of Michigan to develop a new high-tech instrument called Martian Aqueous Habitat Reconnaissance Suite (MAHRS), which is designed to fine evidence of alien life on Martian waters.

According to a report from Space Flight Insider, the new instrument will be installed in one of NASA's future Mars rovers. Its task will mainly to explore the wet brine areas on the red planet.

“Brine environments are where you would look for life. Any water that exists today on Mars would likely be in the form of a brine if is in a liquid state," said Project Manager Dan Vento in a news release from NASA.

The idea for a more environment-focused rover came from Nilton Renno, a professor of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan. Together with Mike Krasowski, a NASA Glenn Senior Research Engineer, the two wrote proposals for a soil wetness sensor and an electrical field sensor.

“We worked on those two things, and got funds to mature those two instruments. When the MATISSE [Maturation of Instruments for Solar System Exploration] program started, people told me here is a new opportunity. That is when I came up with the concept of putting all the instruments together in a suite that would focus on habitability," Renno told Space Flight Insider in an interview.

The MAHRS instrument measures 4 inches by 4 inches and features a sensor, a circuit board and microscope lens that's positioned upward. When Martian dust settles on the lens, the microscope can snap high-res photos of the dust, which can be used for scientific analysis. Also included in the instrument is a radiometer for measuring the amount of solar energy absorbed by the surface of Mars.

“The interesting feature about the microscope, is that the electronics architecture can support a camera lens or hyperspectral sensor depending on the scientific goals of the mission,” said NASA Glenn engineer Norman Prokop.

Currently, MAHRS has not yet been included in any upcoming space missions to Mars but engineers at the NASA Glenn Research Center is continually prepping the new technology for the instrument to adapt to future missions.

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