One of the functions of the Perseverance rover is to provide key atmospheric data that will help future astronauts on the Red Planet survive in harsh conditions. The weather data tool that Perseverance is equipped with is called MEDA – Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer. More details about the technology are reported by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
One of the goals of MEDA is to gather basic information about the weather on Mars. Namely, data on temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure and relative humidity. Temperature patterns at the Perseverance landing site range from -88°C at night to -23°C during the day.
MEDA, other meteorological instruments aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover and the InSight lander will create “the first meteorological network on another planet,” said José Antonio Rodriguez-Manfredi, MEDA Principal Investigator at the Center for Astrobiology (CAB) at the National Institute of Aerospace Technology in Madrid, Spain.
The key difference between MEDA and its predecessors is that it will also measure the amount, shape and size of dust particles in the Martian atmosphere. Dust affects any ground mission on Mars. It pollutes everything from spaceships to solar panels. Dust also affects chemical processes both on the surface of Mars and in its atmosphere, and also affects temperature and weather in general. The Perseverance team wants more data. It will also help scientists optimize operations with the Ingenuity Mars helicopter.
“Understanding Martian dust is very important,” stresses Rodriguez-Manfredi. “These small dust particles rise from the surface and cover the entire planet. We don’t yet know how Martian winds and temperature changes affect full-scale dust storms.”
While these storms are not as powerful as the movies show (Mars’ atmosphere is too thin for that), they create a thick layer of dust on equipment. A global dust storm in the summer of 2018 completed the mission of NASA’s most accomplished solar-powered rover, Opportunity, after nearly 15 years of operation.