Coming soon to Mars: a new weather station

The hunt for alien life and a Red Planet wind forecast

The Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) collects atmospheric measurements that will provide a regular weather report from Jezero Crater on Mars. Each of two horizontal booms mounted on the Mars 2020 rover's mast will measure winds. Below that are three temperature sensors. Near the temperature sensors, other sensors will measure the relative humidity of the atmosphere, and the balance between the amount of infrared energy received from the sun and the amount reflected back to space.
The Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) collects atmospheric measurements that will provide a regular weather report from Jezero Crater on Mars. Each of two horizontal booms mounted on the Mars 2020 rover's mast will measure winds. Below that are three temperature sensors. Near the temperature sensors, other sensors will measure the relative humidity of the atmosphere, and the balance between the amount of infrared energy received from the sun and the amount reflected back to space. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The search for life on Mars takes a leap forward on Feb. 18, when NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on the planet after its long deep-space journey.

While it may be some time before we know whether life exists there, we will be able to check the weather soon using a new weather station called the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer, or MEDA.

The weather sensors are designed to record six atmospheric parameters: wind speed/direction, pressure, relative humidity, air temperature, ground temperature, and radiation in discrete bands of the UV, visible, and IR ranges of the spectrum.

It will also analyze dust optical properties; important because, Ingenuity the new Mars Helicopter, will be deployed to attempt the first experimental flight test on another planet.

Precise wind data will help in knowing how much of a breeze is necessary to kick up dust to protect future missions.

Dust dominates Mars’ weather the way that water dominates Earth’s weather. Forecasting Martian weather will not be accurate unless scientists understand how dust behaves at different times and in different conditions.

A key objective of Perseverance’s mission on Mars is to learn about the dust cycle and its impact on the weather while researching its astrobiology or searching for signs of ancient microbial life.

Perseverance rover mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith. (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Weather instruments can help play a role in framing how past climate could have played a role in any previous or current life.

Whatever may be alive would need to be acclimated to living in weather extremes.

The InSight lander deployed a previous weather package at the end of 2018. It detected the coldest temperature ranging from minus 139 degrees Fahrenheit to the warmest reading of 23 F.

With the new MEDA sensors, astronauts will know what type of weather conditions they’ll face on Mars. Their safety depends on accurate weather predictions.

NASA has set up a webpage for the public to check on Mars surface conditions from the Curiosity rover’s existing weather station.

The page doesn’t update as quickly as your backyard weather station and the temperature is missing but, a space weather fan can make the most of it while waiting for the new weather station on Perseverance.


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