DREAMS Team Tests ExoMars 2016 Schiaparelli Lander in Aarhus Mars Simulator
October 14, 2016

DREAMS Team Tests ExoMars 2016 Schiaparelli Lander in Aarhus Mars Simulator

Testing DREAMS with advanced laser-based wind flow instruments to establish the wind flow distortion due to the lander. Credit: U. Aarhus

Next Wednesday, the ExoMars 2016 mission will arrive at Mars. Schiaparelli – an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module – will descend through the Martian atmosphere to land on the surface of the Red Planet, at a site called the Meridiani Planum. Schiaparelli carries a scientific package called DREAMS (Dust Characterisation, Risk Assessment, and Environment Analyser on the Martian Surface). This suite of sensors is essentially a Mars weather station to measure the wind speed and direction, humidity, pressure, temperature, opacity and electric properties of the Martian atmosphere.

At the end of June, the team that designed DREAMS took along a 3D printed scale model of the ExoMars 2016 lander and the DREAMS sensor system to carry out simulations in the Aarhus University Planetary Environment Facilities. The tests were funded by Europlanet 2020 RI through its Transnational Access programme.

Testing DREAMS on a scale model of the ExoMars Schiaparellii lander. Credit: U. Aarhus

The simulator at Aarhus is a unique experimental facility capable of reproducing planetary environments in the laboratory. For the DREAMS tests, the simulator recreated the low temperature, low pressure, gas composition, wind flow and dust exposure on the surface of Mars. This allowed the DREAMS team to verify and test the performance and functionalities of the DREAMS payload in a Mars-like, dusty environment. Tests included:

  • Simulation of the thermal plume generated by the Sun-driven warming of the plate where DREAMS is mounted, which in turn can affect the DREAMS measurements.
  • Experimental investigation of the influence of the Schiaparelli module on the DREAMS measurements. Advanced laser-based wind flow instruments were used to test a 3D printed (around 1:4) scale model of the lander structure. The flow distortion due to the lander can affect the wind velocities and direction measurements to be acquired by DREAMS.
  • Laboratory validation of the numerical model that will help analyse results collected by the sensors in the Martian conditions at the landing site.

The data from the tests at Aarhus will help interpret the results collected by DREAMS during the 2–8 sols that Schiaparelli will operate on the surface of Mars (a solar day on Mars, or sol, is 24 hours and 37 minutes).

The DREAMS team at Aarhus during testing.

Participants in the tests were:

Francesca Esposito, Anselmo Cecere, Cesare Molfese, Giacomo Colombatti, Carlo Bettanini (Naples, Italy), Colin Wilson (Oxford, UK), Maria Genzer (FMI, Finland), Jens Jacob Iversen, Jon Merrison, Keld Rasmussen (AU, Denmark).