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The Athena Mars Rover Science PayloadThe Mars Surveyor missions that will be launched in April of 2001 will include a highly capable rover that is a successor to the Mars Pathfinder mission's Sojourner rover. The design goals for this rover are a total traverse distance of at least 10 km and a total lifetime of at least one Earth year. The rover's job will be to explore a site in Mars' ancient terrain, searching for materials likely to preserve a record of ancient martian water, climate, and possibly biology. The rover will collect rock and soil samples, and will store them for return to Earth by a subsequent Mars Surveyor mission in 2005. The Athena Mars rover science payload is the suite of scientific instruments and sample collection tools that will be used to perform this job. The specific science objectives that NASA has identified for the '01 rover payload are to: (1) Provide color stereo imaging of martian surface environments, and remotely-sensed point discrimination of mineralogical composition. (2) Determine the elemental and mineralogical composition of martian surface materials. (3) Determine the fine-scale textural properties of these materials. (4) Collect and store samples. The Athena payload has been designed to meet these objectives. The focus of the design is on field operations: making sure the rover can locate, characterize, and collect scientifically important samples in a dusty, dirty, real-world environment. The topography, morphology, and mineralogy of the scene around the rover will be revealed by Pancam/Mini-TES, an integrated imager and IR spectrometer. Pancam views the surface around the rover in stereo and color. It uses two high-resolution cameras that are identical in most respects to the rover's navigation cameras. The detectors are low-power, low-mass active pixel sensors with on-chip 12-bit analog-to-digital conversion. Filters provide 8-12 color spectral bandpasses over the spectral region from 0.4 to 1.1 micron Narrow-angle optics provide an angular resolution of 0.28 mrad/pixel, nearly a factor of four higher than that of the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Surveyor '98 cameras. Image compression will be performed using a wavelet compression algorithm. The Mini-Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES) is a point spectrometer operating in -the thermal IR. It produces high spectral resolution (5 /cm) image cubes with a wavelength range of 5-40 gm, a nominal signal/noise ratio of 500:1, and a maximum angular resolution of 7 mrad (7 cm at a distance of 10 in). The wavelength region over which it operates samples the diagnostic fundamental absorption features of rockforming minerals, and also provides some capability to see through dust coatings that could tend to obscure spectral features. The mineralogical information that Mini-TES provides will be used to select from a distance the rocks and soils that will be investigated in more detail and ultimately sampled. Mini-TES is derived from the MO/MGS TES instrument, but is significantly smaller and simpler. The instrument uses an 8-cm Cassegrain telescope, a Michelson interferometer, and uncooled pyroelectric detectors. Along with its mineralogical capabilities, Mini-TES can provide information on the thermophysical properties of rocks and soils. Viewing upward, it can also provide temperature profiles through the martian atmospheric boundary layer. Elemental and Mineralogical Composition: Once promising samples have been identified from a distance using Pancam/Mini-TES, they will be studied in detail using up to three compositional sensors that can be placed directly against them by an Instrument Arm. The two compositional sensors, presently on the payload are an Alpha-Proton-X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), and a Mossbauer Spectrometer. The APXS is derived closely from the instrument that flew on Mars Pathfinder. Radioactive alpha sources and three detection modes (alpha, proton, and x-ray) provide elemental abundances of rocks and soils to complement and constrain mineralogical data. The Athena APXS will have a revised mechanical design that will cut down significantly on backscattering of alpha particles from martian atmospheric carbon. It will also include a target of known elemental composition that will be used for calibration purposes. The Athena Mossbauer Spectrometer is a diagnostic instrument for the mineralogy and oxidation state of Fe-bearing phases, which are particularly important on Mars. The instrument measures the resonant absorption of gamma rays produced by a Co-57 source to determine splitting of nuclear energy levels in Fe atoms that is related to the electronic environment surrounding them. It has been under development for space flight for many years at the Technical University of Darmstadt. The Mossbauer Spectrometer (and the other arm instruments) will be able to view a small permanent magnet array that will attract magnetic particles in the martian soil. The payload may also include a Raman Spectrometer. If included, the Raman Spectrometer will provide precise identification of major and minor mineral phases. It requires no sample preparation, and is also sensitive to organics. Fine-Scale Texture: The Instrument Arm a also carries a Microscopic Imager that will obtain high-resolution monochromatic images of the same materials for which compositional data will be obtained. Its spatial resolution is 20 micron/pixel over a 1 cm depth of field, and 40 micron/pixel over a 1-cm depth of field. Like Pancam, it uses the same active pixel sensor detectors and electronics as the rover's navigation cameras. The Instrument Arm is a three degree-of-freedom arm that uses designs and components from the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Surveyor '98 projects. Its primary function is instrument positioning. Along with the instruments noted above, it also carries a brush that can be used to remove dust and other loose coatings from rocks. Sample Collection and Storage: Martian rock and soil samples will be collected using a low-power rotary coring drill called the Mini-Corer. An important characteristic of this device is that it can obtain intact samples of rock from up to 5 cm within strong boulders and bedrock, Nominal core dimensions are 8xl7 mm. The Mini-Corer drills a core to the commanded depth in a rock, shears it off, retains it, and extracts it. It can also acquire samples of loose soil, using soil sample cups that are pressed downward into loose material. The Mini-Corer can drill at angles from vertical to 45' off vertical. It has six interchangeable bits for long life. Mechanical damage to the sample during drilling is minimal, and heating is negligible. After acquisition, the sample may be viewed by the arm instruments, and/or placed in one of 104 compartments in the Sample Container. A subset of the acquired samples may be replaced with other samples obtained later if desired. The Sample Container has no moving parts, and is mounted external to the rover for easy removal by the Mars Surveyor 2005 flight system. Operation of the rover will make extensive use of automated onboard navigation and hazard avoidance capabilities. Otherwise, use of onboard autonomy is minimal. Data downlink capability is about 40 Mbit/sol, and the use of the Mars Surveyor '01 orbiter for data relay imposes a limit of at most two command cycles per sol. Because of the significant amount of time available between command cycles, all payload elements will be operated sequentially, rather than in parallel.; this approach also significantly simplifies operations and minimizes peak power usage. The landing site for the '01 rover has not been selected yet. Site selection will make as full use as possible of Mars Global Surveyor data, and will involve substantial input from the broad Mars science community. Summary: The following table describes the mass, power, providers, and key scientific objectives of all the major elements of the Athena payload. Additional Athena payload information may be found at: Additional information contained in the original.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Squyes, S. W. (Cornell Univ. Ithaca, NY United States)
Arvidson, R. (Washington Univ. Saint Louis, MO United States)
Bell, J. F., III (Cornell Univ. Ithaca, NY United States)
Carr, M. (Geological Survey Menlo Park, CA United States)
Christensen, P. (Arizona State Univ. AZ United States)
DesMarais, D. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA United States)
Economou, T. (Chicago Univ. Chicago, IL United States)
Gorevan, S. (Honeybee Robotics Ltd. United States)
Klingelhoefer, G. (Technische Hochschule Darmstadt, Germany)
Haskin, L. (Washington Univ. Saint Louis, MO United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1998
Publication Information
Publication: Mars Surveyor 2001 Landing Site Workshop
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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