Saturday, February 2, 2008

ExoMars Update Week > Live Q'n'A with Jorge Vago



THIS POST IS NOW CLOSED.
Thank you all, Jorge Vago and the readers, who made of this Saturday's evening a great, gratifying experience, which, in my opinion, truly marked the difference...

Welcome to spacEurope’s Live Q’n’A.
Now, that are 4.30PM GMT here, this post is open to your participation.


This half hour before the “official” beginning of the Q’n’A is intended to be a way of people getting familiar with the place and, if that is case, to prepare some work for our guest by starting posting your words.
From now on and until 6PM GMT feel free to drop in this post’s comment box your questions to Jorge Vago, the Project Scientist of the ExoMars Mission.



Interaction is the key and the aim is to achieve a clearer picture of the adventure predicted for 2013.
How to proceed? The easiest way is to follow the blog’s main page, under this words click where it is written 0 (or other number) COMMENTS, this will take you to the comment box, there, write down your question in the “leave your comment” section, not required, but a request is for you to identify yourself, to do so leave your name on the NICKNAME box, and there you go, wasn’t difficult, wasn’t it?
Any additional question just e-mail me.

Just a note, refresh this page from time to time to check for new entries…
Dear guest and readers, the blog is yours, make yourself comfortable and may the questions and answers roll!

33 comments:

Rui Borges said...

I�ll make the honours�
Here goes the first one:
-Being the mission concept quite ambitious, involving parameters that will be performed by an ESA mission for the first time, like, the safe landing of a large payload, mobility, drilling and other technical challenges, how confident are you and how confident can you make us about seing ExoMars being launched in 2013?

Stu said...

Hi from England,

First of all, thank you for making yourself available for us to ask you these questions, it's much appreciated :-)

Ok, some questions...

1. Do you feel under any pressure to outperform the NASA rovers? Either in terms of engineering performance or scientific results?

2. Given the public's growing fascination with space research and exploration, will ESA be making sure that images taken by ExoMars would be released as soon as possible?

3. Come on, be honest now... how many of you are secretly thinking "We could be the ones to find the first life on Mars.."? ;-)

Paolo Amoroso said...

Are there any plans to experiment with more extensive public outreach, such as wider and more frequent distribution of images and information, blogs and increased public involvement? Will ESA release ExoMars raw images similarly to what NASA's MER and Cassini missions do?

Jorge Vago said...

I am here.

Jorge Vago.

Rui Borges said...

Dear Jorge, let me thank you, first, for your availability, second, for the precious Saturday afternoon hour you decided to share with spacEurope’s readers and, last but not least, for this great opportunity to know more about the ExoMars mission.
May this experience be an agreeable and enriching journey for both parts, the one Questioning and the one Answering.
Enjoy!

Fran said...

Hi from Spain,

1. Do you hope that a fair success with ExoMars could be an enabling step for a wider ESA campaign of rover missions to other Solar System bodies?

2. Following the example of Mars Express/Venus Express, if ExoMars finally becomes a reality, would we later see ExoEurope, ExoMercury, etc., or is its design very specific for Mars?

3. Being such an ambitious project for ESA, would it include an special effort in outreach and media in the main languages of the EU?

Anonymous said...

So, let us see if this works.

Firstly, let me thank you all for your interest in ExoMars.

I will try to start with Stu's questions.

1) We work very closely with NASA. In fact, one of the organics detection instruments in Pasteur (Urey) comes from them. More than trying to outperform NASA, we try to do the best we can, and we try to fit within the international Mars exploration programme. This means doing things that they are not doing, that complement their efforts, so that together, we can all move forward.

Jorge

Rui Borges said...

It is working Jorge...Gracias hombre! :-)

Let me thank you, first, for your availability, second, for the precious Saturday afternoon hour you decided to share with spacEurope’s readers and, last but not least, for this great opportunity to know more about the ExoMars mission.
May this experience be an agreeable and enriching journey for both parts, the one Questioning and the one Answering.
Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

So, it seems it does work! Brilliant.

A good example is the subsurface drill. NASA has not planned this for MSL. On the other hand, the MSL rover will be much more performant locomotion wise. They will be able to cover more distances. We will move less, but will bring into the equation the subsurface science. This is what I mean by complementing what they do.

2) Our plan is to do things in the same way they were done for MER. That is, to upload the mages as they come in, every day. Also to provide summaries of the science results we obtain in other fields, i.e. geology, geochemistry, and organics.

3) Of course we would love to be the first to find traces of life on Mars. However, more realistically, I expect that it will take more than one mission to settle this issue. Personally, I will be very happy if we can solve the question of what has happened to the organic molecules delivered by cometary and meteoritic infall every day to Mars. Viking (1976) filed to detect them, yet they should be there, maybe at depth. If we can identify biomarkers, we will be over the moon :-).

Jorge

Jorge

Anonymous said...

Hi Fran,

Your first question is a very interesting one. I think that after the brilliant success of Huygens, we should go back to Titan. This time with something that moves: either a rover or a balloon-based platform. However, missions that go further away than Mars need radioactive power sources. ESA needs to pursue this technology very aggressively if we want to have interesting missions to outer planetary bodies.

Regarding making more info available to the public, I agree with you. With so much work on the engineering and science part of the mission, we often "forget" a bit that there is a strong interest in these cool missions. Over the past few months we have been working on an ExoMars web site. It is clear and we expect it to go on line pretty soon.

Jorge

SF said...

Portugal saluting ExoMars!

Jorge, speaking of traces of life...there is a mole in the Humboldt payload, capable of reaching 5 meters, comparing with the drill on the rover this one can only reach 2 meters…
What is the main difference between these two?

Anonymous said...

Hi SF,

Very good question!

The Pasteur drill, on the rover, is designed to penetrate into the subsurface to collect a small sample: a cylinder 1 cm in diameter by 2.5 cm in length. This sample is then passed on to the rover's analytical laboratory, where we poke at it with our instruments.

The objective of the mole on Humboldt is to go down only once. As it buries itself, the mole drags behind a long, 5-m cable instrumented with thermocouples (to measure temperature) every 50 cm. The mole never comes out again. It stays buried. By measuring the temperature at different points over the cable's length, we hope to determine the internal heat gradient. That is, how much heat flows from the interior of Mars towards the surface. This measurement has never been carried out, and a lot of people working on models to understand Mars' evolution are waiting for these results.

Jorge

Walter said...

Is the concept for the GEP still the two boxes one?
And what was the solution found to guarantee that the instruments will be in contact with the martian surface?

Walter :: K�ln

Walter said...

Sorry, I have another one...:
In which power source will the rover and the GEP trust in? Solar? RTG?
In a previous Pasteur Letter it was said that the creation of new RTGs for GEP was too risky…does this problem already has a solution?

Walter

Anonymous said...

Dear Walter,

You have touched one of the subjects that is keeping us awake at night. It is a really tough problem to solve. We have to distinguish between those instruments that do not require deployment on the surface and the two that do: the seismometer (SEIS) and the mole (HP3).

MMarcus said...

Definitive decisions about the instruments that will make it to Mars, for when?
In which stage of development is the rover?

Walter said...

And how will that dilemma be solved,any hint?

Stu said...

A personal question or two..?

What inspires and excites you most about the ExoMars mission? Have you a personal passion for the Red Planet, or is it just a destination for you?

How does it feel to stand outside at night now and see Mars blazing in the sky above you? Does it seem impossibly far away and difficult to reach?

And back to things technical... kind of... was there a conscious decision to make the rover look like a martian formula one car or is it just a coincidence that it looks that cool? ;-)

Anonymous said...

I continue with the answer.

For the instruments that do not require deployment, the challenge is to use the least amount of electrical power to keep them warm, and therefore to make as much electricity as possible available for science.

For the seismometer, we are inclined to lower it to the terrain through a hole in the center of the lander structure. The question then is what happens if it encounters folded airbag material instead of soil. The SEIS science team has a backup plan for this case, so that they can get decent science results.

The issue is more difficult for the mole, as it needs to penetrate into the ground through loose soil. If it encounters airbag material or rocks, well.... it is likely that it may not work. We are also studying the option of deploying it with a robotic arm, but it is not cleat that we will be able to afford the extra mass. As you see, very much a work in progress.

Jorge

Rui Borges said...

Due to the volume of questions arriving, our guest as agreed on giving us a mission extension until 18.30PM. Thank you Jorge!
Guests...just keep those questions coming in! :-)

Anonymous said...

Dear Stu,

The picture used for the blog is an early artist rendition. I admit it looks really cool; however the rover does not look like that anymore.

I will see if I can pass Rui a picture of what it looks like now. The body is rather boxy. The drill box is huuuge, much larger than what you see in this picture. The solar panels are also bigger, and tiltable. They look like some batman design. Finally, the two ground penetrating radar antennas stick from the back like two rocket boosters. I think it looks very nice, but the sleek, insect-like appearance of the artist rendition is not there anymore.

Jorge

Stu said...

Okay, playing Devil's Advocate here... Although they too wish it well, and would do anything to see it succeed, some people have doubts about ExoMars's chances of success. They worry that the first ESA rover project is just too ambitious - huge, heavy rover, complicated delivery system, cutting-edge tech on the rover itself, an enormous (and growing) budget - at a time when belts are tightening around the globe. They worry that if it failed it would bea crippling blow to ESA. I'm sure at least some of those thoughts have gone through your mind too... How do you respond to those people, both as an ESA scientist and as a space enthusiast?

Anonymous said...

The mission is what we call the Phase B.

This is the phase that ends with the Preliminary Design Review (PDR). Following a successful PDR, we will start the construction of the Engineering Models. These are the models used for "qualification" of the system. That is, we bake them, we freeze them, we rattle them, and test them to pieces to find everything that may be wrong. We expect to complete our PDR by end 2008.

Before we get there, we are working on building and testing prototypes of the critical technologies: the drill, the landing system and airbags, the rover locomotion system, and the sample preparation and distribution system. Things are working really well.

Jorge

Turner said...

Dear Jorge Vago, can you point the differences, if they exist, between the ExoMars PanCam and the one on the MERs?

Rui Borges said...

Do you mean this beautiful baby Jorge? ;-)

http://robots.open.ac.uk/space/MarsRoverBBModelTenerife.jpg

Looks even better, and powerful..., than the rendition... :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Stu,

Well, the toughest challenge, of course, is to achieve a safe landing on Mars. I wish you could see the great drop tests we have been carrying out with the landing system: with rocks, slopes, etc. So far, excellent results, but we have not yet started the tests in Martian atmosphere. Nevertheless, encouraging.

As for the cost. Sure, it is an expensive mission, but the costs are not growing. The money we received at the 2005 ESA Ministerial Conference was for a much smaller rover (only 8 kg of instruments) and no Humboldt. Thereafter, the delegations of the ESA member states came back to us and asked us to double the payload on the rover and to add the GEP (or Humboldt). Needless to say, the Soyuz could not do the job anymore and we needed the Ariane 5. Everything grew, and so did the bill. But then again, there are no miracles.

As for this mission being a great risk, most cool missions are. Think of Giotto that went to Halley in the 80's. That was considered risky. So were Huygens and Rossetta.

The thing that is a bit frustrating is that we offered the ministers the large ExoMars in 2003, prior to the 2005 conference. At the time it was considered too large. Yet, soon after 2005, they wanted it back. Had they made up their mind in 2005, we would have been able to launch 2 years earlier. As it is, I am not complaining. I cannot think of any other mission I would rather work on.

Jorge

Stu said...

Thanks Jorge for that very full and constructive answer. Iwant to thank you for taking the time to "talk" to all of us here, I'm sure you've both raised the profile of ExoMars and the level of support for it out here in Space Enthusiast Land. Many of us are very, very passionate about the exploration of space, and will be behind you 1000% as ExoMars evolves. And on the day when the rover starts rolling across Mars we'll all be, in spirit at least, walking alongside her, proudly. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Turner,

The MER cameras are fixed focal length, stereoscopic cameras.

The ones on ExoMars are as follows:

We also have a pair of fixed, focal length stereo cameras, the Wide Angle Cameras (WACs), but with a slightly wider field of view than those of MER. This will allow us to take panoramas more often (as we need fewer pictures to generate them, due to the larger FOV).

We also have a central High Resolution Camera (HRC), with only 3.5 deg FOV. This is the equivalent of a teleobjective in your digital camera. We use this to virtually "get closer" to possible targets that we may have identified with the WACs.

Jorge

Anonymous said...

Dear Stu,

You are very welcome! It was a pleasure chatting with you. Many thanx.

Jorge

Anonymous said...

Hi Rui,

No, the picture there is of Bridget. This is a rover prototype that Astrium UK developed and tested in Tenerife to prepare for the ExoMars competition to assign the rover contract work (which they won, by the way).

I do not think that the present rover concept has made it to the net yet. If I were on my office computer I could send it to you, but I do not have it with me at home.

Jorge

Rui Borges said...

Anymore questions?
This is being really a great time...I feel kind of frustrated to end this here...Anyone?
I'll throw one more...
I really trust in Europe's ambitious goals, how can we, the general public, help supporting a mission like ExoMars, pushing it for a 2013 successful launch? Where can we make the difference Jorge?

Anonymous said...

Everybody can help!

By learning about ExoMars, by following its development, by telling your friends about the mission.

Many people are not aware of ESA, or its missions. We are very aware that we need to do more work in this regard, and we are very thankful for the interest you show in ExoMars and in space in general.

I do not know how many of you have direct access to the ministers for research and industry in you countries, but if you do, please tell them that there is this one really cool mission at ESA that requires their support and attention at the 2008 ESA Ministerial Conference.

Jorge

Rui Borges said...

Dear Jorge, I know wifes are calling us, martians, to join earthly missions, and that this could go on and on through the whole weekend...I would just like to thank you for EVERYTHING, for the openess, for the good mood, for the mission you represent and that, I AM SURE, will succeed with the combined effort from all of us.
Once more, THANK YOU for this precious minutes, precious answers and precious outreach work for a tremendous mission. Ultreya!

This is a wrap! Let's have a great dinner! A fantastic weekend to everyone.

Rui Borges
Sintra | Portugal
spacEurope