Twenty-year-old measuring instrument from Mars probe gets an update for better data

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A team of space scientists has updated the software of measuring instrument Marsis aboard the 2003 Mars Express spacecraft. Thanks to the update, the probe can transmit more and better data.

The software update was developed by the Italian Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (INAF) and implemented by the European Space Agency ESA. It will ensure that unnecessary data is no longer stored during measurements of the Martian surface by the Marsis instrument and that the working memory of that instrument is filled less quickly. “By keeping data we don’t need, Marsis can run five times as long,” said Andrea Cicchetti, manager at INAF. “We can also record a much larger area with each measurement.”

The space scientists hope to receive more qualitative data from Marsis with this update. They want to use the instrument as soon as possible to investigate the region around the south pole of Mars, because they have already found traces of liquid water there in the past.

Marsis stands for Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding. The instrument has been used since 2003 to analyze the Martian surface and determine whether there are traces of water on Mars. The instrument sends low-frequency radio waves to Mars. Some of those waves pass through the Martian surface and are not reflected until they hit a new layer in the subsurface. Based on these reflected signals, the scientists can determine which materials are under the surface of Mars.

Mars Express probe

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