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aboard Perseverance traveling Spanish technology. The most important contribution is MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer), a sophisticated weather station developed mainly by the National Institute of Aerospace technology (INTA) and the Center of Astrobiology (CAB). The instrument is ready for characterize the atmosphere and the dust martians during the whole mission, something important not just to do science but also to prepare for future human missions to the red planet
“The martian dust is a serious problem, which is vital; it can saturate the filters of the systems of obtaining oxygen from the carbon dioxide of the atmosphere required for the survival of a crew,” explains José Antonio Rodríguez-Manfredi, engineer in the CAB and responsible for the project. Without going so far, MEDA will play a very important role in the landing of Perseverance, since the vehicle will pass 21,000 km per hour to about 155 km altitude to zero to six feet above the surface. “As the atmosphere is so thin, small variations in the temperature or the dust could cause the system to not slow down enough and crash,” explains the researcher.
With a budget of 12 million euros, the instrument is more ambitious and much more complex than their predecessors on Mars, created also by INTA: REMS on the Curiosity rover, or TWINS in the probe InSight. “We’ve learned a lot from the experience and improved”, says Rodríguez-Manfredi. MEDA weighs six pounds (three times more than REMS) and it is difficult to describe, because it is distributed by various parts of the rover to optimize its performance and avoid disruption to the nuclear power of their own Perseverance, to 180ºC.
But the biggest challenge, according to the researcher, “has been without a doubt the calendar.” “We have worked for six years, very little time for a project of this magnitude. And we’ve done a bestial, very ambitious, with 400 people coordinated with a precision of swiss watchmaking,” he explains.
TO MEDA will accompany other Spanish instruments, such as a high gain antenna for communications built by a company of the group, Airbus and laser for calibration in flight of the INTA and the University of Valladolid. The engineer believes that MEDA can help to obtain interesting results on the livability pass of the red planet. “Jezero, where it lands, the mission, is a good place. Had water on its surface makes it 3,800 million years old. Mars might be habitable and we have tools to demonstrate it. Hopefully within a year we have results,” he concludes.