37th DPS Meeting, 4-9 September 2005
Session 18 Future Missions and Instrumentation
Poster, Monday, September 5, 2005, 6:00-7:15pm, Music Lecture Room 5

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[18.05] Development of a Martian Sonic Anemometer

R.W. Dissly (Ball Aerospace), D.J. Banfield (Cornell), J. Lasnik (Ball Aerospace), J.T. Waters (Cornell), I.J. McEwan, M.I. Richardson (Caltech)

This presentation will describe the progress to-date on the development of an acoustic anemometer for the in-situ measurement of wind speeds on Mars, funded by NASA PIDDP. Improved measurements of Martian winds are needed for several reasons: better prediction and understanding of global and regional weather, direct measurement of fluxes between surface/atmosphere of momentum, heat, and trace atmospheric constituents, characterizing and monitoring boundary layer winds that influence the safe delivery of spacecraft to/from the Martian surface, and improved characterization of geologically important aeolian processes that can pose a hazard to future exploration via dust storms and dust devils.

Prior attempts to measure surface winds have been limited in capability and difficult to calibrate. Sonic anemometry, measuring wind speed via sound pulse travel-time differences, can overcome many of these issues. Sonic anemometry has several distinct advantages over other methods such as hot wire techniques: higher sensitivity (~<5 cm/s), higher time resolution (10-100 Hz), and fewer intrinsic biases for improved accuracy. Together, these open the possibility of resolving turbulent boundary layer eddies to directly capture surface-to-atmospheric fluxes for the first time.

We will describe the results of our development of an acoustic anemometer using capacitive micro-machined devices, optimized for acoustic coupling in a low-pressure medium like the Martian atmosphere. This development includes transducer characterization tests in a pressure chamber at Ball Aerospace with Mars-relevant CO2 pressures. We will also describe experimental results showing that the addition of water in a low-pressure CO2 atmosphere can significantly increase acoustic attenuation. Finally we will describe plans for further optimization of the instrument for future Mars payloads.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #3
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