From Italy to Mars through Rio Tinto
The second call for applications for the Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access (TA) programme returned a positive response to the Ma_Miss (Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies) team for a geological and spectroscopic field analysis campaign at the Rio Tinto site in Spain.
The main objective of the project is to collect spectral data and samples useful for testing the ExoMars2022/Ma_MISS spectrometer. Ma_MISS is the miniaturized visible and near-infrared (VIS-NIR) spectrometer, integrated into the drilling system of the ESA ExoMars/2022 Rosalind Franklin rover, dedicated to the Martian subsurface exploration.
“The Rio Tinto represents an example of how life can adapt to extreme environments: this may give us clues as to what kind of life may have once developed on Mars” says Marco Ferrari from the INAF/IAPS in Rome, “and scientific results from previous work with other drilling equipment and scientific instruments show that the Rio Tinto site has ideal mineralogical/biological characteristics to test the Ma_MISS spectrometer also in the context of Oxia Planum, the selected landing site of the ExoMars/2022 mission“.
During the field campaign, the team plans to perform a series of VIS-NIR measurements collecting a representative sample of each mineral that will be subsequently measured with the breadboard Ma_MISS at the INAF/IAPS laboratory. All the efforts focused on any spectral signature related to the presence of biomarkers in the collected data with the aim of understanding whether the Ma_MISS instrument can be of any help in detecting traces of life in the Martian subsurface, which is one of the main scientific objectives of the ExoMars/2022 mission.
The findings of this study will be published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at major planetary science-related international congresses, as well as during scientific public outreach events.
We can’t wait to find out more!