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New cutting-edge project complements our knowledge about planet Mars

July 9th 2015 –To prepare the future ExoMars mission, a consortium of seven European scientific institutions, coordinated by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC), will develop new analytical techniques to exploit data of existing missions to Mars. With its internationally recognised expertise in the observation and modelling of planetary atmospheres- BIRA-IASB will undoubtedly be a very valuable project partner.

The European Commission has described the science to be deployed in this project as ‘excellent’ and has granted funding of over €2 million under the Horizon 2020 programme.

 

The UPWARDS project

Over a period of three years, the Understanding Planet Mars With Advanced Remote-sensing Datasets and Synergistic Studies (UPWARDS) consortium will review and analyse the data gathered by the European Mars Express mission and other missions to the red planet.

UpwardsTo this end, it will develop innovative data analysis tools and apply new geophysical and atmospheric models that will help scientists to address questions that have still not been answered.

Amongst the ambitious science scope of the project, we found topics such as:

  • the global water cycle on Mars
  • the exchange of methane and other gases between the atmosphere and the interior of Mars
  • the variability of dust storms and the nature of the Martian subsoil

UPWARDS will also create a new and global database of the climate of Mars, assimilating spacecraft observations into model simulations that will produce 4D (spatial and temporal) datasets for the scientific community.

Mars Clouds

The new tools generated by the UPWARDS project will make it possible not only to obtain more information from the data that we possess about the red planet, but will also be fundamental in view of the future ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) mission, whose launch is planned by the European Space Agency and Roscosmos in January 2016. TGO will carry the NOMAD-instrument on board, of which Ann Carine Vandaele (BIRA-IASB) is the Principal Investigator.  

 

Contribution of BIRA-IASB

The “Planetary Aeronomy” team of BIRA-IASB is involved in research dealing with:

  • the investigation of dust storms and dust properties
  • the detection of clouds in the ultraviolet
  • the retrieval of vertical profiles of trace gases

Mars Interior Atmosphere

Valérie Wilquet (BIRA-IASB) is leading the work package “Trace gases at the Day/Night terminator”.

The terminator, a very peculiar region of the atmosphere that solar occultations probe, is the limit between the day and night sides of the planet. Scientists at BIRA-IASB will investigate the chemical and dynamical effects at this transition region, which is not well understood today. The focus will be set on detection of the ozone which is a species of high importance because of its strong correlation with the amount of oxidants in the Martian atmosphere.   

 

The UPWARDS consortium

The UPWARDS consortium is composed of seven European scientific institutions:

  • Higher Scientific Research Council of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC, Spain), who is the project coordinator
  • the Open University (OU, United Kingdom)
  • the Institut d’Aéronomie Spatiale de Belgique (BIRA-IASB, Belgium)
  • the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS, France)
  • the Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF, Italy)
  • the Koninklijke Sterrenwacht van België (KSB-ORB, Belgium)
  • the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM, Spain)

Upward

All the members of the consortium have ample, recognised experience in the analysis of data from space missions and many of the scientists have been key players in the Mars Express mission, successfully launched in 2003 and still in activity.

Some of the members of UPWARDS will also participate to the European ExoMars mission, 2016-2018. All will develop new analytical tools to help create a scientific framework of reference for future missions to Mars.

 

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