RIMFAX - ground penetrating radar
Radar Imager for Mars' subsurface experiment - called RIMFAX - is a ground penetrating radar experiment for NASA's Mars 2020 Rover.
RIMFAX will add a new dimension to the rover's toolset by providing the capability to image the shallow subsurface beneath the rover in unprecedented detail.
RIMFAX will aid the Mars 2020 Rover's mission to explore the ancient habitability of its field area, and select a set of promising set of samples that will eventually be returned for Earth.
Ground Penetrating Radar
Ground penetrating radar (GPR) is a geophysical method that is widely used on Earth to study subsurface bedrock, soils, groundwater and ice. It has also been used successfully by the Chinese lunar rover Yuto to study the structure of the lunar crust.
GPR instruments send radio frequency electromagnetic waves into the ground and then detect the reflected signals as a function of time to reveal subsurface structure as well as composition.
RIMFAX will provide a highly detailed view of the subsurface structure in the Mars 2020 rover's field area that will complement large-scale orbital radar measurements by the MARSIS instrument on Mars Express, and the SHARAD instrumenton Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
RIMFAX is based on a number of GPR instruments developed at FFI over the past 25 years. These instruments have been deployed successfully to study a range of terrestrial environments, including temperate glaciers on Svalbard, ice-shelf studies in Antarctica, snow accumulation on glaciers, and on the US-Norwegian Antarctic Traverse.
RIMFAX was selected by NASA to be one of seven instruments on the Mars 2020 rover in July, 2014.
- NASA news announcement about the seven selected instrument
- FFIs press release about being selected by NASA
The RIMFAX team is led by Svein-Erik Hamran of FFI and includes scientists from Norway, Canada and the United States.
RIMFAX will provide the rover and its science team with the capability to quickly assess the extent and depths of possible buried layers and their stratigraphic relationship to nearby outcrops. RIMFAX will provide a unique view of the stratigraphic section and cross-cutting relations, and thus a window into the geological history and associated environmental history.
Depending on the geologic setting, RIMFAX has the potential to detect a wide range of subsurface geologic features, as well as the presence of subsurface ice, brines and liquid water. RIMFAX subsurface images will be especially valuable for assessing the past surface exposure history of sedimentary rock layers, which will be key focus of the Mars 2020 mission.