As we method the ultimate yr of the MAPLE mission, it is time to take the instrument out into the sector! This previous summer season, PVL PhD pupil Charissa Campbell and then-MSc (now PhD) pupil Grace Bischof took MAPLE out to Argentia, Newfoundland one of many foggiest locations on Earth the place the Gulf Stream meets the Labrador present. Mom nature did not disappoint and Charissa and Grace got here again with spectacular photographs and science.
by Charissa Campbell
This summer season was fairly busy as we have been making ready for the deployment of our MAPLE (Mars Atmospheric Panoramic digicam and Laser Experiment) instrument to the extremely foggy space of Argentia, Newfoundland. There are two major area testing websites for MAPLE which features a foggy location (giant aerosols) and Arctic location (small, Martian-like aerosols). With the Arctic being extra Mars-like, MAPLE will journey alone and be managed remotely to completely mimic spaceflight circumstances. Nevertheless, as a place to begin, we determined to journey with MAPLE to the Argentia, NL space to check in foggy circumstances.
MAPLE is predicated on a earlier experiment completed by the Phoenix lander that took photographs of the onboard lidar laser to categorise ice-water content material of aerosols close to the floor (https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA11030). Nevertheless, the digicam might solely take a picture of a small portion of the sky, limiting the view of the laser. MAPLE is provided with a panoramic digicam to permit the complete sky to be captured, which additionally permits for a number of lasers to be in use on the similar time and clouds to be monitored throughout the day. For Argentia, we outfitted MAPLE with 8 totally different lasers in quite a lot of wavelengths and energy (class) to attempt to decide if a selected set was higher for future measurements. Including totally different wavelengths of lasers permits us to additionally examine the scale of aerosols. To additional enhance the science output of MAPLE, we’ll make use of methods used with the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL, Curiosity) to calculate aerosol properties similar to optical depth, wind properties and others. By utilizing information from earlier Martian floor missions, we are able to develop MAPLE in a option to maximize the quantity of returnable knowledge in a low-cost manner.
Defining a mission as low-cost means looking for the minimal quantity of energy, knowledge quantity and measurement wanted to amass your measurements. Since we’re within the early levels of the mission, we created MAPLE from scratch utilizing a pelican case which held our elements. This features a panoramic digicam, 8 lasers and a raspberry pi that’s used to regulate the digicam. A number of battery packs have been used, one for every laser and a separate bigger one for simply the raspberry pi. As MAPLE will get extra automated, the lasers will finally be managed by the raspberry pi and energy may be extra streamlined via simply the Pi. The scale of MAPLE appeared to work properly, and home windows needed to be put in within the prime for the digicam and lasers to shine via. I by no means took development at school, so I had quite a lot of late nights with the drill to push via two rectangles for the laser home windows. Fortunately, we already had a bubble panoramic window so I merely needed to assemble a correctly sized gap for the window. By some means, I managed to completely assemble MAPLE and never injure myself. We additionally received humidity measuring packs to see how sealed the within was. Minimal humidity was famous throughout the case, which is a win contemplating we have been in basically a cloud most instances we have been on the sector. One concern we did have with protecting MAPLE low-cost was that the photographs have been somewhat giant and I solely outfitted the raspberry pi with a 32GB SD card. A number of further time was spent shifting recordsdata over to a transportable laborious drive so we will likely be trying into upgrading the scale of the SD card whereas additionally optimizing the scale of the photographs.
The sphere web site itself was actually stunning and was a bucket checklist merchandise for me as Newfoundland was the final province for me to go to in Canada. Apparently sufficient, there have been no rental vehicles out there on the entire island for the two week we have been desirous to journey. Nevertheless, with the approaching finish of the foggy season we didn’t need to miss the chance to make observations. I like taking totally different strategies of transportation and stumbled upon a ferry that travels from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to, lo and behold, Argentia. There have been rental vehicles out there in North Sydney so my colleague and I flew instantly there, picked up the automotive and instantly took it on the ferry throughout to the island. We have been capable of get a room on the ferry itself with 2 beds, a rest room, and the very best view of the ocean. This was perfect because the ferry is about 16 hours lengthy, in a single day, so the mattress was very a lot wanted.
As soon as arrived, we received settled within the city of Placentia, which was a brief drive to/from the sector web site which was within the port the place our ferry was docked. They’d a cool lifting bridge that was an important backdrop for figuring out when the fog was rolling in. We did most of our experiments again at our arrival dock. It was initially a World Warfare 2 airfield web site owned by the People, given by the British for the only function of constructing it a Naval airbase. The Atlantic Constitution was signed simply outdoors the port which was thought to result in the United Nations Constitution (https://www.hiddennewfoundland.ca/argentia-naval-station). As somebody who loves studying historical past, it was wonderful to do the experiments in such an space. We have been on one of many previous runways because it was good for pointing the lasers in a manner decide how far the lasers might journey. This was the purpose for the primary day on the positioning.
As all the time, one thing will go fallacious on the sector web site and that was the case on our first day. After we first began testing, we anticipated to fiddle with the picture parameters, similar to publicity, to see the laser. Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter what we did we couldn’t see any of the lasers within the photographs. We had not brainstormed what would occur on this case so we took a somewhat lengthy lunch break to consider what we might do to mitigate the issue. We determined to strive taking photographs anyhow within the solar and elevated the variety of photographs taken for every laser configuration. The solar is likely to be so shiny within the day that the digicam merely can’t view them within the picture. We additionally determined to do some trial runs when it received darkish. One night, the fog rolled in so closely that I received MAPLE all arrange late within the night. It received so foggy that it really felt like I used to be in a horror film or unsolved mysteries as I used to be unable to see a couple of ft in entrance of me. Photographs of what MAPLE might see at nighttime confirmed how necessary the darkish was to our experiments. After gathering quite a lot of photographs, we knew what the sport plan was for the remainder of the journey.
We completed our Newfoundland journey with photographs in each day and evening that will likely be analyzed additional. Many questions have been each answered, and the journey was extraordinarily helpful on telling us how we have to put together MAPLE for the Arctic. The journey was a problem however an effective way to achieve management expertise. Since I used to be not the one individual on this journey, Grace has these phrases to say about her time on our area journey:
“Many of the analysis I’ve accomplished all through my diploma has consisted of analyzing knowledge acquired from area missions – whether or not that be temperature, knowledge or footage taken from the floor of Mars. Due to this, my days often contain sitting at my laptop, writing code, and customarily not shifting round an excessive amount of. Going to Newfoundland for fieldwork allowed me to discover totally different sides of analysis that I often don’t get to discover. Working with MAPLE meant driving out to the sector web site within the mornings, organising the instrumentation, and taking a number of experiments to attempt to seize the science. There’s a diploma of unpredictability with fieldwork that we don’t usually expertise in our day-to-day work. Will or not it’s foggy sufficient? Will the batteries have sufficient energy for the experiments? Will the within of the instrument get too humid? Finishing up this fieldwork was a really distinctive expertise, and I’m so grateful to have had the chance to strive one thing new!”