Miniature instruments are being developed and tested at the Aarhus Mars simulation facilities which has already at the NASA Phoenix mission performed important measurements on the planet as part. Some of the instruments are outlined:
MMLA: Miniature Mars Laser Anemometer
A prototype miniature laser Anemometer has been developed for Mars exploration which can quantify wind speed and measure the suspended dust density. Here a patterned (five line) laser beam is created and the scattered light collected and detected by a photodiode. It has been successfully tested in the Aarhus wind tunnel facility under Martian conditions. This information would be invaluable for learning more about the transport and properties of the atmospheric dust.
DARE: Dust Accumulation Rate Experiment
The deposition of dust has major importance to the exploration of Mars, both scientific and technological. A new opto-electronic instrument has been developed to quantify the dust deposition rate on a surface. Here light from a photodiode is reflected and collected by a photodetector and the signal used to measure the dust loading, using different coloured diodes crude reflection spectra can be obtained giving mineralogical information about the dust.
Electrical Charging of Martian Dust
Knowing the electrical charge state of the Martian dust would be of both scientific interest and important to the safety of instruments on the Martian surface. A prototype instrument uses metal electrodes to attract (and repel) dust onto an insulating film, the dust accumulation is then studied optically. In wind tunnel tests Mars analogue dust has seen to be highly electrically charged (both positively and negatively). Such electrification has seen to affect the way dust grains stick to each other and to surfaces. Environmentally charging can cause electrical breakdown. Such research may allow electrostatic techniques to be developed in order to reduce dust build up.