Planetary polar explorer – the case for a next-generation remote sensing mission to low Mars orbit

Oberst, Jürgen; Wickhusen, Kai; Gwinner, Klaus; Hauber, Ernst; Stark, Alexander; Elgner, Stephan; Grott, Matthias; Fanara, Lida; Hussmann, Hauke; Steinbrügge, Gregor; Lewis, Stephen; Balme, Matthew; Maugeri, Maurizio; Diolaiuti, Guglielmina; Karlsson, Nanna; Johnsson, Andreas; Ivanov, Anton and Hiesinger, Harald (2022). Planetary polar explorer – the case for a next-generation remote sensing mission to low Mars orbit. Experimental Astronomy



We propose the exploration of polar areas on Mars by a next-generation orbiter mission. In particular, we aim at studying the seasonal and regional variations in snow-deposits, which – in combination with measurements of temporal variations in rotation and gravity field – will improve models of the global planetary CO2 cycle. A monitoring of polar scarps for rock falls and avalanche events may provide insights into the dynamics of ice sheets. The mapping of the complex layering of polar deposits, believed to contain an important record of climate history, may help us understand the early climate collapse on the planet. Hence, we propose an innovative next-generation exploration mission in polar circular Low Mars Orbit, which will be of interest to scientists and challenging to engineers alike. Schemes will be developed to overcome atmosphere drag forces acting upon the spacecraft by an electric propulsion system. Based on the experience of missions of similar type in Earth orbit we believe that a two-year mission in circular orbit is possible at altitudes as low as 150 km. Such a mission opens new opportunities for novel remote sensing approaches, not requiring excessive telescope equipment or power. We anticipate precision altimetry, powerful radars, high-resolution imaging, and magnetic field mapping.

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