OU researchers have been awarded £462,374 by the UK Space Agency to configure instruments to conduct new science on Mars.
Dr Manish Patel, Senior Lecturer in the OU’s Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and his team will support operations for a spectrometer and imager on board the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) for the next two years during the primary science phase.
On 19 October 2016, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) reached the orbit around Mars. Dr Patel, is Co-Principal Investigator for the the NOMAD (Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery) spectrometer instrument on board the TGO. NOMAD consists of three spectrometers, two infrared and one ultraviolet, to perform high-sensitivity orbital identification of atmospheric components, including methane and ozone.
Dr Patel is also a Co-Investigator on the CaSSIS camera (Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System), which he will also provide operations support for. CaSSIS will characterise sites that have been identified as potential sources of trace gases and investigate dynamic surface processes – for example, sublimation, erosional processes and volcanism – which may contribute to the atmospheric gas inventory. The instrument will also be used to certify potential landing sites by characterising local slopes, rocks and other possible hazards.
Dr Patel said: “This grant allows us to configure the instruments to be operated in the best way possible to ensure the highest quality science from the mission for the next two years. It puts the OU at the forefront of Mars research and will provide cutting-edge input to the OU curriculum for our students.”
Collaborators with the OU team are: The Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) and the University of Bern, Switzerland.