Field test of the Mars 2020 Rover Mission in terrain analogous to Mars in Teide Peak

NASA’s Mars 2020 mission began in July 2020 with the launch from Cape Canaveral (Florida) of the Atlas V rocket. On-board, the Mars 2020/Perseverance rover is equipped with seven different instruments specially designed to conduct unprecedented scientific experiments on the Red Planet to seek signs of ancient life and gather rocks and soil samples for a possible return to Earth. In particular, the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) instrument was designed to perform weather measurements including radiation, wind speed and direction, temperature and humidity, and also to measure the amount and size of dust particles in the Martian atmosphere. MEDA is an environmental suite of sensors developed by some research centers and led by the Centro Español de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA) in Madrid.

As a twin experience in a terrestrial analogy of Mars, the MEDA instrument was tested and verified in the Teide Peak. This experience began in September 2020 with the deployment of the MEDA sensor in the Fortaleza area, in the Teide Peak (Figure 1), carried out by scientists from CSIC-INTA, Universidad de Alcalá (UAH), Instituto Geográfico Nacional and AEMET, and the technical support of the National Park and Volcano Teide. The MEDA instrument logged the environmental parameters, which will be compared to routine measurements taken from AEMET’s nearby stations such as direct normal irradiance, global radiation, diffuse radiation, aerosol optical depth, Angström exponent for aerosols and meteorological parameters. These measurements provided helpful information to the NASA 2020 mission to verify and understand the atmospheric dynamics and relevant information registered by MEDA on the Red Planet’s surface.

Figure 1.- MEDA instrument deployed in Fortaleza area (Teide Peak) September 2020.