Four national space agencies have expressed their intention to jointly set up a mission in which a probe will go to Mars to map ice under the surface. These are the organizations from the US, Japan, Canada and Italy.
The four organizations intend to develop a mission plan and define their individual potential roles and responsibilities. The plan is still in its conception phase, so it can’t come to a head yet, but if it goes ahead, NASA says it could launch in 2026. The idea of the collaboration is, among other things, that this will significantly reduce costs per organization, which increases the feasibility of the mission.
The probe will use radar to map the ice. To this end, the probe flies over Mars. The data will then be sent to three telecommunication satellites orbiting Mars at higher altitudes, after which they will send the data to Earth.
The idea is that this Mars Ice Mapper mission will detect the location, depth, spatial extent and abundance of ice deposits close to the surface. More knowledge about this would enable the scientific community to ‘interpret in more detail the volatile history of Mars’. Water on Mars is also seen as a potential source of hydrogen and oxygen so that fuel could be made on the spot. Furthermore, more data about the ice can lead to more knowledge about whether life ever existed on Mars.
In addition, NASA believes the mission could help identify potential scientific objects of interest for future human research missions to Mars. The probe will also identify dust, regolith and rock layers. This can help identify rocks and other dangerous terrain so that they can be avoided during the fact-finding missions. Regolite is a mixture of dust, grit, minerals, clay, glass, and lumps of rock and various chemicals that can be found on the surface.
Multiple robots are exploring Mars and they are on the planet. The Mars Rover Perseverance will be added from 18 February.