17th Dec. 2013 Sol 485

Posted by jcb36 at Dec 17, 2013 10:05 PM |
17th Dec. 2013 Sol 485

Future drilling on Mars?

The landing site slection process for the 2018 ExoMars Rover has just started:

http://exploration.esa.int/mars/53462-call-for-exomars-2018-landing-site-selection/

I am one of the people on a European Space Agency led group who will scrutinise the sites for their suitability for ExoMars.  Other people from the MSL team are also on this group and we will use the experience we have gained with Curiosity.

One of the key things we are learning from MSL is about the importance of drilling and the preservation of organics in relation to the surrounding terrain.  ExoMars should be able to drill down to 2 m depth, helping our chances of avoiding the full effects of radiation from solar and galactic sources.  However, results from Curiosity also show the likely importance of identifying sampling sites which have been protected by overlying rocks for most of their history, with only relatively recent exposure by wind erosion on the martian surface.  This has been determined in the Science paper by Ken Farley et al. (In Situ Radiometric and Exposure Age Dating of the Martian Surface), who studied the abundances of isotopes determined by SAM, including 3He which is formed by exposure to cosmic radiation.  Most helium, He has an atomic weight of 4.  They conclude that some terrains were exposed by erosion, less than 100 million years ago.  This sort of information will help guide our future exploration of Mars.

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