DLR - Mars

Full description

The facilities are especially designed for exobiological studies in the following areas:

  • Responses of terrestrial modelsystems (extremophiles, microbial communities) to Martian surface and subsurface conditions, or selected parameters of this environment;
  • Preparation of exobiological experiments for Mars landers;
  • Performance of ground control experiments in parallel with exobiological experiments designed to search for life on Mars;
  • Thermophysical and outgassing properties of the Martian surface layers, especially the water balance;
  • A high degree of reliability of simulation of the actual space parameters under due consideration of telemetric data.

Part of the facilities has been used in conjunction with the comet simulation program KOSI.

Mars simulation facility at DLR

DLR has nine space simulation facilities for exobiological studies, one large planetary simulation facility and two smaller Mars simulation facilities under refurbishment. In order to reproduce a stable and controlled Martian gas composition under the low temperatures and pressures of Mars, the constructional design of the three Mars simulation facilities has a double walled outer shell and an isolating vacuum in between (Dewar principle). The flexible thermal system is a combined heating and cooling system, to adjust the temperatures e.g. following a daily Martian variation. It is also possible to thermalize smaller experimental compartments by integration into the larger facilities. Hand- or motor-operated manipulators, operational under the relevant Thermal-Vacuum (TV) conditions, are provided. The Thermal-system as well as the vacuum-system (=10-6 Torr) are operated computer controlled, very flexible in a wide temperature regime. This design has been realized for the large Mars Simulation Facility at the Institute for Space Simulation, DLR.

The Mars simulation chamber offers an internal compartment of 1.5m in diameter and 1.8m in height for the integration of experimental instruments or any material. A number flanges (12) at the side or from the top allow visual, camera or optical inspection. The flanges can also be used for electrical feed-through or for the installation of mechanical manipulators. A separate cooling cycle, e.g. an experimental cold plate, can be operated with liquid nitrogen from outside.

Sketch showing the principles of the Mars simulation facility at DLR

Separate vacuum-tight containment’s, 50 cm in length and 30 cm in diameter with separate heating, cabling and gas or connection to the environmental conditions outside the chamber are available in addition to double walled sample containers, 1.20 m in height, 0.30 m in diameter with connections for separate liquid nitrogen (LN2) cooling from outside. This facility provides a physical simulation of Martian surfaces and environment, and controls the environmental conditions in pressure and temperature following their daily and seasonal variation in amplitude, not always in time. The velocity, a thermal cycle can be performed, depends on the thermal masses of the integrated experimental hardware. In-situ camera inspection or monitoring is sometimes needed; using e.g. video cameras in separate containment’s under normal environmental conditions and suitable optical windows, respectively using glass-fibre optics systems. The new smaller Mars Simulation Facilities for exobiological studies under development are specifically designed to allow frequent change of samples and test conditions.

Last update: 23 January 2012

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