Accurate modeling of Mars atmospheric cycles will help design rovers for extreme environments
Chinese researchers have developed a numerical model to simulate the atmosphere of Mars to support the country's plans to collect soil samples from the planet.
The model accurately reproduces the cycles of the Martian atmosphere and will be used to simulate meteorological conditions during spacecraft landings. This will allow scientists to determine surface temperature, wind speed and dust levels.
China intends to launch its own Mars sample return mission, called Tianwen-3, between 2028 and 2030. The landing module, using a special drill and a robotic arm, will collect up to 500 grams of soil from the surface of the planet and send it into Mars orbit, then using the return module to deliver samples to Earth.
The new atmospheric model allows the simulation of landing conditions, including the temperature of the landing zone. This information could be useful for developing materials that can withstand extreme temperatures and ensure reliable operation of Mars rovers.
The model, called the Global Open Planetary atmospheric model for Mars (GoMars), was developed based on data from China's Zhurong rover, which was part of China's first interplanetary mission, Tianwen-1, launched in 2020. The model also includes data from NASA's Viking 1 and Viking 2 landers and the OpenMARS reanalysis dataset, which is a global analysis of weather on Mars.
The goal of the Tianwen-3 mission will be to collect and return samples from Mars. And later, in 2030, the Tianwen-4 mission is planned, which will go to Jupiter and its moon Callisto, and will also fly past Uranus.