ExoMars is a joint endeavour between the European Space Agency and Russia’s Roscomos agency, and consists of the 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter and the Rosalind Franklin (ExoMars 2020) rover. MSSL is leading the PanCam team to provide the rover’s science cameras. The Rosalind Franklin rover is due to launch in July 2020 and arrive at Mars in March 2021.
Temperatures on Mars may fall as low as -120ºC
The Martian environment
The environment of Mars presents the main technological challenges facing PanCam. Because the instrument is mounted on the rover mast, it is exposed to the fine dust which settles from the atmosphere and is exposed to a difficult thermal environment. Temperatures may fall as low as -120ºC, depending on latitude and season, and there is, like on Earth, constant diurnal cycling, with warmer temperatures during the day and colder temperatures at night. Even at the equator the range is quite extreme: perhaps as ‘warm’ as 0ºC during the day, but falling to -90ºC at night. The PanCam team need to ensure that electronics and mechanical parts maintain reliable operation throughout a lengthy mission.