Russia proposes water-hunting instrument for future Mars rover

Feb. 4, 2014 at 7:13 PM

MOSCOW, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- Russian scientists have proposed an instrument for an upcoming NASA Mars rover to search for underground water that could support life on the Red Planet.

The instrument designed by Russia's Space Research Institute was one of 58 proposals submitted to NASA this month for inclusion on the agency's upcoming Mars 2020 rover.

"On the surface everything looks the same, just layers of dust and rock, but our instrument can see minerals of scientific interest underground," institute lead scientist Igor Mitrofanov told RIA Novosti.

The proposed instrument would be based on earlier water-scanning devices built by the institute for a series of NASA probes.

One of those devices, the High Energy Neutron Detector on the Mars Odyssey orbiter, helped detect quantities of frozen underground water on the Red Planet in 2002.

The new detector would look for gamma radiation produced when cosmic rays crash into the martian surface.

"With gamma rays we can see the elemental composition of the soil. The spectral lines that are emitted by the soil when bombarded by cosmic rays indicate how much iron, silicon, calcium, etc. are present under the surface," Mitrofanov said.

NASA is expected to announce the chosen experiments for the upcoming rover mission in March.

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