Tech & Science Israeli scientists complete mock Mars mission in Negev desert
The black box set to revolutionize the search for life beyond Earth
In the world's driest desert, an unassuming black box called "Espresso" is about to begin a very big mission: scouring the universe for planets like ours to find signs of life beyond Earth. Espresso, an instrument known as a spectrograph, has a humble appearance that belies its cutting-edge technology: it is the most precise instrument of its kind ever built, 10 times stronger than its most powerful predecessor.
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The experiment was held near the isolated Israeli township of Mitzpe Ramon, whose surroundings resemble the Martian environment in its geology, aridity, appearance and desolation, the ministry said.
The participants were investigating various fields relevant to a future Mars mission, including satellite communications, the psychological affects of isolation, radiation measurements and searching for life signs in soil.
Participant Guy Ron, a nuclear physics professor from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said the project was not only intended to look for new approaches in designing a future mission to the Red Planet but to increase public interest.
"D-Mars is half about the research, and the other half is about the outreach. A major part of this project is getting public interest and getting students interested in space," he said.
NASA's Mars 2020 Rover Is Sending Back a Piece of Mars
The soon-to-be meteorite passenger is going to be used as target practice for a laser technology designed to examine rock features on Mars as fine as human hair. The laser instrument known as SHERLOC (short for Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) will study Martian rock—but scientists need a testing spot first. Oftentimes, instruments like SHERLOC are tested on rocks, metal and glass placed on the Red Planet, and even spacesuit materials—which helps SHERLOC analyze how spacesuits survive the Martian environment.
The "D-Mars" project was being held in Israel for the first time in cooperation with the Israel Space Agency. It is one of a number of Mars simulation projects taking place worldwide.
(Reporting by Rami Amichay; Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Edmund Blair)
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