MOSAIC: A satellite constellation to enable groundbreaking mars climate system science and prepare for human exploration
The Martian climate system has been revealed to rival the complexity of Earth's. Over the last 20 yr, a fragmented and incomplete picture has emerged of its structure and variability; we remain largely ignorant of many of the physical processes driving matter and energy flow between and within Mars' diverse climate domains. Mars Orbiters for Surface, Atmosphere, and Ionosphere Connections (MOSAIC) is a constellation of ten platforms focused on understanding these climate connections, with orbits and instruments tailored to observe the Martian climate system from three complementary perspectives. First, low-circular near-polar Sun-synchronous orbits (a large mothership and three smallsats spaced in local time) enable vertical profiling of wind, aerosols, water, and temperature, as well as mapping of surface and subsurface ice. Second, elliptical orbits sampling all of Mars' plasma regions enable multipoint measurements necessary to understand mass/energy transport and ion-driven escape, also enabling, with the polar orbiters, dense radio occultation coverage. Last, longitudinally spaced areostationary orbits enable synoptic views of the lower atmosphere necessary to understand global and mesoscale dynamics, global views of the hydrogen and oxygen exospheres, and upstream measurements of space weather conditions. MOSAIC will characterize climate system variability diurnally and seasonally, on meso-, regional, and global scales, targeting the shallow subsurface all the way out to the solar wind, making many first-of-their-kind measurements. Importantly, these measurements will also prepare for human exploration and habitation of Mars by providing water resource prospecting, operational forecasting of dust and radiation hazards, and ionospheric communication/positioning disruptions.
Author affiliationSchool of Physics & Astronomy, University of Leicester
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