Perseverance’s MEDA system will allow researchers to better understand the weather conditions of the Jezero crater, but not only. These data will be invaluable in preparing for the sample return mission and the arrival of the first humans.
On Earth, the weather plays an important role in our daily plans. You may find it necessary to wear a small jacket if the forecast calls for a little wind or to delay a trip due to an approaching thunderstorm. On Mars, it’s the same. Mission managers also rely on meteorological data to prepare their actions.
MEDA, the weather “antennas” of Perseverance
In the Jezero crater, Perseverance takes its own weather system with it, called Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer, or MEDA.
MEDA, which weighs around 5.5 kg, houses numerous sensors aimed at save multiple types of data, such as dust levels, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity and ground temperature. MEDA can estimate the temperature at three atmospheric heights: 0.84 meters, 1.45 meters and 30 meters. It also records the radiation budget near the surface.
Finally, the system wakes up every hour and records data whether the rover is awake or not, day or night.
MEDA has turned on for the first time on February 19 for thirty minutes, about a day after the rover landed. During the following night, mission engineers received initial data, confirming that their instruments had survived the descent. And a few hours later, they finally received the first weather report from MEDA.
At the time of starting data logging, it was -20 ° C on the surface when the system started logging. About 30 min later, the temperature dropped to -25.6 ° C.
MEDA’s radiation and dust sensor showed that the atmosphere of Jezero crater was “cleaner” than that of Gale crater, inside which the Curiosity rover operates more than 3,700 kilometers away. Finally, on site, the pressure was 718 Pascals (the models had predicted a pressure between 705 and 735 Pascal for this period on Mars).
A new MEDA report published on the 43rd and 44th Martian days, or sols (April 3 and 4 on Earth) recorded a daytime temperature rising to -22 ° C and nighttime temperature dropping to -83 ° C. During this period, MEDA also measured gusts of wind moving at around ten meters per second.
Prepare for future missions
Thanks to terrestrial telescopes and probes in orbit around Mars, scientists have had a good understanding of the Martian climate for several years now. However, having an envoy directly on site is always more interesting. MEDA will provide valuable information here on temperature cycles, heat flows, dust cycles and how dust particles interact with light.
All these data will thus be able to inform the design of the mission to return samples to Mars. They will also help engineers to better prepare for future manned missions planned for the 2030s.