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New wind data for Mars

Image: NASA / JPL / UA

Researchers at FMI have decoded images of scattered spacecraft parachutes and heat shields to provide new wind data for Mars. To do this they used simulations of spacecraft landings in conjunction with a machine learning algorithm to infer the winds responsible for scattering the hardware.

The work has provided wind data in a region of the Martian atmosphere extending from the surface up to about 10 km altitude that cannot be directly observed by lander meteorological instruments or from orbital platforms. The wind data has been utilised in the paper to better understand how the atmospheric circulations may interact with the Martian terrain to produce the locally observed pattern of winds.

The above image shows a HiRISE image of the InSight lander that landed in 2018 and was a subject of this study. The lander is located about half-way up the main image on the left side surrounded by a darkened surface. The heat shield is a bright speck on the southern rim of the crater at the top right. The parachute and back-shell are located at the bottom of the image.

More information: Mark Paton, Finnish Meteorological Institute,

Publication: Paton, M., Leino, J., Harri, A.-M. and Savijärvi, H., 2021, Martian boundary layer wind profiles during the landings of Viking and InSight, Icarus, 367, 114581

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