Lander radioscience for obtaining the rotation and orientation of Mars | INSTITUT DE PHYSIQUE DU GLOBE DE PARIS


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  Lander radioscience for obtaining the rotation and orientation of Mars

Type de publication:

Journal Article


Planetary and Space Science, Volume 57, Ticket 8-9, p.1050-1067 (2009)



Numéro d'accès:




UMR 7154 ; Etudes Spatiales et Planétologie ; Radioscience; X-band signal; Mars nutation; Mars length-of-day


The paper presents the concept, the objectives, the approach used, and the expected performances and accuracies of a radioscience experiment based on a radio link between the Earth and the surface of Mars. This experiment involves radioscience equipment installed on a lander at the surface of Mars. The experiment with the generic name lander radioscience (LaRa) consists of an X-band transponder that has been designed to obtain, over at least one Martian year, two-way Doppler measurements from the radio link between the ExoMars lander and the Earth (ExoMars is an ESA mission to Mars due to launch in 2013). These Doppler measurements will be used to obtain Mars' orientation in space and rotation (precession and nutations, and length-of-day variations). More specifically, the relative position of the lander on the surface of Mars with respect to the Earth ground stations allows reconstructing Mars' time varying orientation and rotation in space. Precession will be determined with an accuracy better by a factor of 4 (better than the 0.1% level) with respect to the present-day accuracy after only a few months at the Martian surface. This precession determination will, in turn, improve the determination of the moment of inertia of the whole planet (mantle plus core) and the radius of the core: for a specific interior composition or even for a range of possible compositions, the core radius is expected to be determined with a precision decreasing to a few tens of kilometers. A fairly precise measurement of variations in the orientation of Mars' spin axis will enable, in addition to the determination of the moment of inertia of the core, an even better determination of the size of the core via the core resonance in the nutation amplitudes. When the core is liquid, the free core nutation (FCN) resonance induces a change in the nutation amplitudes, with respect to their values for a solid planet, at the percent level in the large semi-annual prograde nutation amplitude and even more (a few percent, a few tens of percent or more, depending on the FCN period) for the retrograde terannual nutation amplitude. The resonance amplification depends on the size, moment of inertia, and flattening of the core. For a large core, the amplification can be very large, ensuring the detection of the FCN, and determination of the core moment of inertia. The measurement of variations in Mars' rotation also determines variations of the angular momentum due to seasonal mass transfer between the atmosphere and ice caps. Observations even for a short period of 180 days at the surface of Mars will decrease the uncertainty by a factor of two with respect to the present knowledge of these quantities (at the 10% level). The ultimate objectives of the proposed experiment are to obtain information on Mars' interior and on the sublimation/condensation Of CO2 in Mars' atmosphere. Improved knowledge of the interior will help us to better understand the formation and evolution of Mars. Improved knowledge of the CO2 sublimation/condensation cycle will enable better understanding of the circulation and dynamics of Mars' atmosphere. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Dehant, Véronique Folkner, William Renotte, Etienne Orban, Daniel Asmar, Sami Balmino, Georges Barriot, Jean-Pierre Benoist, Jeremy Biancale, Richard Biele, Jens Budnik, Frank Burger, Stefaan de Viron, Olivier Haeusler, Bernd Karatekin, Ozgur Le Maistre, Sebastien Lognonne, Philippe Menvielle, Michel Mitrovic, Michel Paetzold, Martin Rivoldini, Attilio Rosenblatt, Pascal Schubert, Gerald Spohn, Tilman Tortora, Paolo Van Hoolst, Tim Witasse, Olivier Yseboodt, Marie European Mars Science and Exploration Conference NOV 12-16, 2007 Noordwijk, NETHERLANDS Sp. Iss. SI