HABIT to search for water on Mars in 2020

HABIT is the first ever Swedish science instrument to land on Mars. This technology will join the mission in the search for water on Mars by scanning the environment and searching for water. Finding water on Mars could have important implications for the long-standing question of whether evidence of life can be found on the planet. With the exciting plans for HABIT to be deployed in the ExoMars’ Surface Platform there are also plans underway to involve the public in space science and technology, and the workings of HABIT through The HABIT Tour. We share the details.

Scicomm strategy

Since March 2018, the Group of Atmospheric Science (GAS) [1] of Luleå University of Technology [2] is developing a new science communication strategy based on an innovative low-cost outreach exhibition, involving researchers, that allows direct contact between researchers and the audience.

The key point of the strategy is to create the conditions for a reciprocal benefit. From one side the experience should help the researchers to evaluate their capability to successfully reach different audiences; and provide the possibility for audiences to interact directly with researchers and change their perception about the social role and relevance of researchers.

One of the possibilities of this strategy is to include early educative levels, as preschool, stimulating children with real science, adapted to their level.

Right: Audience interacting with HABITreplica in Vetenskapensfestivalen Göteborg (April 6th and 7th 2019) Copyright: GAS

Research project

Luleå University of Technology (LTU) is a young university placed on the north of Sweden focused on the creation of innovative learning and researching ecosystems and methodologies. One of the strategic areas is the space research and space prototyping. GAS is a LTU research group focused on the study of Earth and planetary atmospheres and the development of instruments for Earth and planetary exploration: from idea to instrument design, development, calibration, operations and data analysis. GAS is a worldwide repute cutting-edge planetary research group with articles in high-impact journals as Nature, Science, PNAS and more.

HABIT technology on Mars

HABIT instrument Fly Model. Copyright: GAS

Above: HABIT instrument Fly Model. Copyright: GAS

The HABIT (Habitability: Brines, Irradiation and Temperature) instrument [3] proposed by Prof. Martin-Torres and Prof. Zorzano from the GAS was selected by the European Space Agency to be one of the two European instruments on board the ExoMars’ Surface Platform (the Russian contribution to the mission). The Flight-Model of HABIT was delivered to the ESA Office in Moscow in July 2019. The main scientific goals of the instrument are:

  1. To provide environmental information at the Landing Site.

  2. To demonstrate liquid water formation on Mars.

  3. To test an In-Situ Resource Utilization technology for future Mars exploration.

HABIT will contribute to one of the main goals of the ExoMars Program [4]: “to search for signs of past and present life on Mars”. It will open ways to start planning future manned missions to Mars by serving as a first step in the development of the technology to produce liquid water on Mars, one of the main resources which a prospective crew will need to explore the planet.

As mentioned in the below video, HABIT will contribute to the ExoMars Program - a collaborative project between the European Space Agency and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, to search for evidence of life on Mars.

Usually space technology, and all the science around it, is seen as a “black box” by society. It is something distant, maybe interesting but incomprehensible, strange, difficult to understand, something done by experts only for experts, something that you can see on TV or internet only as mere spectator without no chances to meet, to touch, to use as a learning tool, or to be meaningful in everyday life people.

The HABIT Tour [5] is one of the activities within the strategic activity of GAS to communicate science: a science communication experience that proposes a new way to engage people with space science and technology (S&T). As if HABIT were a “Rock’n Roll Star”, the HABIT exhibition is due to be shown around Sweden - the home of LTU.

The HABIT Tour tries to “break” peoples' perception of S & T in Sweden, developing a very special way to share cutting-edge space knowledge with different kind of audiences such as university and high school students, families, children, journalists, space fans, maker communities, companies etc... Our purpose is to build a national proud of science activities like HABIT, that will be first ever Swedish science instrument to land on Mars [6].

References & links

[1] https://atmospheres.research.ltu.se/

[2] https://www.ltu.se/

[3] https://atmospheres.research.ltu.se/habit/

[4] https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/Exploration/ExoMars

[5] https://atmospheres.research.ltu.se/pages/outreach/habittour.php

[6] http://exploration.esa.int/mars/48088-mission-overview/

#Mars #spacescience #HABIT #ExoMars #Surface #Exploration #scicomm