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UArizona’s role in latest Mars mission

Looking deep below Mars surface
Posted at 7:13 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 22:15:10-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - A University of Arizona scientist will have a lot riding on a rocket set to launch July 20. It’s headed for Mars to deliver the most sophisticated Mars Rover yet. This rover will even be able to launch a helicopter, but UArizona’s researcher will be looking in a different direction to unlock the secrets of Mars.

The Perseverance Rover will help Doctor Lynn Carter satisfy an urge she’s had since childhood.

“I was a kid that always loved digging in my backyard," she said. "I know there's lots of people that always want to know what's down under there. And so, whenever I talk about RIMFAX I told them it's like having the ability on other planets to just dig a hole and see what's down there.”

RIMFAX is the instrument on the rover that will use radar to reach as far as 300 feet underground. It will create sort of an ultrasound of the layers of martian geology.

“So what we're interested in, where we're going, is how long there might have been water in this crater, and whether or not the conditions were right for life," Carter said. "And we have other instruments on Mars 2020 that are going to be more focused on looking for actual evidence of life."

A lot of the buzz about the Mars 2020 mission involves our first flights of a helicopter on another planet. But Carter says while those flights are up, it’s a prime opportunity for her project to look down because the rover will stand still while the helicopter’s in the air. And she’s excited about how the variety of instruments on the rover will help answer the question of whether Mars ever had life.