The Northern Light mission will deploy a complete entry, descent and landing system equipped with sophisticated scientific instruments and experiments on the surface of Mars. This compact Mars lander and micro-rover system will provide extensive new scientific information on the Martian surface, subsurface and atmosphere.
Lander instrumentation includes a wide angle, stereo-camera system for rover navigation and landing-site imaging, a telephoto camera system for high-resolution colour imaging of the Martian horizon, and a sky camera to investigate atmosphere and to detect air glow. An Argus atmospheric spectrometer will measure solar absorption and derive atmospheric composition and a radiation budget. An active vibrator and receiver will conduct an acoustic study of the Martian subsurface, using short, sub-millisecond pulses.
Argus IR Spectrometer
The Argus infrared spectrometer is the primary science instrument for the Northern Light lander. Argus has space heritage and is celebrating six years in space onboard the CanX-2 micro-satellite and other spacecraft, measuring greenhouse gases. On Mars, Argus will investigate the atmosphere and radiation flux. In addition to atmospheric analyses, Argus is optimized for mineralogical survey and rock classification. Combined with a microscope unit, the instrument will have a wide wavelength coverage (625 nm to 2500 nm) to assess surface geological conditions and to investigate surface boulders. With the aid of the grinder, Argus will also examine the underlying structure of geological material.
Argus has many innovative design features. The instrument structure is assembled from sheet metal, making it extremely small, light, and robust. The instrument has integrated optics and no moving parts, making it ideal for operation in the harsh Martian environment. The linear diode detector is randomly addressable; consequently, integration times can be varied across the array on a pixel-by-pixel basis, giving excellent noise performance.
Aurora IR Line-scan Camera
The Aurora infrared Line-Scan camera uses heritage Argus electronics, but in an infrared camera for digital imaging. Building on heritage Argus technology and optimized for exploration in extreme environments, the Aurora IR line-scan camera has no moving parts, and spectral orders are separated using a silicon/InGaAs sandwich detector.
The Camera Systems
The Northern Light lander will be equipped with a camera system capable of narrow and wide field surveys. The narrow field survey will provide a very high resolution, panoramic view of the landing site. Colour filters will perform spectral mapping and mineral identification; the camera will also perform limited atmospheric and astronomical observations. The Earth as seen from Mars will be between 7 and 50 arc-seconds in size; it will therefore be possible to capture an ‘Earth rise.’
The wide field survey will provide an overall colour view of the lander’s surroundings. This view will be used for a ‘first look’ at the landing site and will help to plan rover deployment and route planning.
The Mars seismic surveying instruments are designed to provide shallow images (depth profiles) of the Martian near surface as well as its rock properties. A prime objective of this surveying is to reveal the elastic and mechanical properties of the Mars surficial material. The use of compressional (P) and shear (S) waves will give compressibility and rigidity estimates of the near surface as well as its structure. Analysis of the P- and S-wave data promises to indicate the rock type and saturant. Sediments, permafrost, and water may all have distinct signatures. This seismic system proposes to use a vibrational source and elastic-wave receivers (accelerometers) on both the Mars lander and the associated rover. The rover will have a vibratory source (piezoelectric/magnetostrictive) on its underbody and a receiver deployed on the rover’s arm. The lander will also have a seismic source apparatus and seismic motion sensor. The redundancy of lander and rover apparatus provides economy and ensures that primary science objectives can be met without rover deployment.
Northern Light will be equipped with environmental sensors to monitor landing-site conditions.
The environmental sensors will measure UV (see Figure 11), oxidizing substances, air temperature (-120 oC to +30 oC), air pressure (accuracy 0.1 mBar/Resolution 0.01 mBar), wind speed, dust impact (Aeolian transported dust particles, with maximum impact rate 4 Hz and momentum in the range 10-7 kgm-1 to 10-11 kgm-1 ) and vibration. These sensors will have a combined mass of 130 g. Flight models were developed for Britain’s Beagle 2 lander.
The Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR)
Ground-penetrating radar and seismic instruments will be complementary and may share power, recording, and transmission systems. The purpose of the GPR is to provide fine-scale, sub-surface imaging to a depth of 20 m on loose aggregate and up to 100 m on permafrost or ice. We believe that it should be possible to accommodate a 200 MHz radar system comprising two 50 cm flexible dipole antennas mounted on opposing sides of the Beaver micro-rover.
The TC Corer
The TC Corer will be supplied by Holinser and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Holinser is an established supplier of heritage space components. The company will supply a corer (mass approximately 400g) capable of boring up to 1 cm into surface rocks. This tool will be used in conjunction with the Aurora spectrometer and microscope to examine the near-surface composition and to look for signs of near-surface life.
Northern Light will carry a Mars capsule to the surface of Mars. The capsule will be a lightweight, hermetically sealed package containing electronic information, including everyone's Mars dances, and other small items.