One of the main goals of the Atmospheric Science Group @ LTU is Mars Research and Exploration. While the group focuses heavily on instrumentation (in fact the HABIT (HAbitability, Brine Irradiation and Temperature) instrument currently being developed here was selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to be part of its next expedition to the surface of Mars), it has recently started to delve into numerical modelling.
One of the regions of interest is the Gale Crater where NASA’s rover Curiosity landed in August 2012. Regular measurements of different weather variables by the Rover Environmental Modelling System (REMS) have been recorded since then and can be used for model verification. Model experimentation has shown that MarsWRF is able to simulate well the observed atmospheric conditions at Gale crater for different times of the year. A paper on the boundary layer and circulation dynamics at Gale has been submitted to the journal Icarus and is currently under review.
The model will now be used to predict the atmospheric conditions at Oxia Planum and Mawrth Vallis, the landing site candidates for ESA's ExoMars 2020 mission. The focus will initially be on the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) conditions and then predicted conditions for the duration of the mission.
This work will improve our current understanding of the role of different atmospheric processes known to be important to the weather conditions in Mars in particular the dust distribution (atmospheric opacity). We will get at least one paper out of this work.