- Accurate thermal properties analyzer
- New one-minute read times
- ASTM 5334- and IEEE 442-compliant
SMALL SENSOR—BIG MISSION
On May 25, NASA’s Phoenix Scout Lander reached Mars, opened a soils lab, and started looking for water. Phoenix used a robotic scoop arm to deliver regolith samples to the suite of instruments aboard the Lander—with one exception. The thermal and electrical conductivity probe (TECP) designed by a team of research scientists at METER (formerly Decagon Devices) was actually mounted on the robotic arm and made direct contact with the regolith. TECP was positioned on the wrist of the arm scoop, allowing the robot arm to probe the floor and walls of the trench. Measurements of regolith physical properties (soil temperature, thermal conductivity, volumetric heat capacity, electrical conductivity, and wind speed) were taken along a vertical gradient in the wall of the trench over several diurnal cycles.
WHY MEASURE THERMAL PROPERTIES?
WHY MEASURE ELECTRICAL PROPERTIES?
FINDING WATER, BUILDING CLIMATE MODELS
Phoenix used the TECP to look for evidence of water on Mars and to determine the thermal properties of the regolith for use in climate models. All TECP measurements were performed flawlessly and it was able to characterize soil thermal properties. TECP detected vapor phase transport of water into the soil at diurnal and seasonal scales, but there was no evidence of liquid water.
The results of the Mars project go beyond the data, though. Ideas that made the Mars mission possible benefit all METER thermal properties instruments. “The mathematical models we developed for Mars make our thermal properties sensors much more accurate and effective,” says Dr. Colin Campbell, “The Mars project has expanded both the depth of our understanding and the breadth of our perspective.”
“For a soil instrument, it makes a lot more sense to go to people that have more expertise about soil science and soil measurements than we ever would at JPL. The thermal and electrical conductivity probe (made by METER) was probably the only instrument on the Phoenix Lander that worked perfectly from beginning to end.”
- Dr. Michael Hecht, NASA JPL