Mars occupies a significant position in our quest for answers to some of the greatest questions, such as those regarding our origins and our place in the Universe. Together with the exciting search for extra-solar planets and the fast-growing field of archaeo-biology, understanding Mars is a critical step towards tangible answers to how life emerged on Earth and whether we are alone in the Universe. The last two decades have seen the rise of an exciting era of exploration of Mars, with almost a dozen Mars missions. The time for further Mars exploration is here and now, with an unprecedented amount of recent data to analyze and a plethora of focused questions and revolutionary new observations to conduct.
The overall approach of UPWARDS consists of the synergistic combination of selected data from Mars missions, focused on MEx, the development of innovative tools to be tested on those data to obtain excellent new science and the delivery of an updated collection of science products based on a revision and extension of previous knowledge. As a result of a data assimilation technique, some of these products will be both global and time-evolving reference datasets. The project is specifically focused on a number of open and challenging issues in current Martian research. These are the pieces of the Martian Puzzle:
|Subsurface atmosphere exchanges of trace species: This hot topic, intimately linked to the possible detection of methane and other trace species revealing a subsurface reservoir on Mars, requires interdisciplinary experts in Geology and a synergistic observation-model approach. Read more.|
|The global cycle of water (vapour and ice) on Mars: The presence of water on present day Mars and in the past, and its implications for Martian habitability, is one of the most discussed topics of our time, requiring ambitious modelling of disparate datasets. Read more.|
|Aerosols and dust storms: An emblematic signature of Mars, dust storms are intrinsically variable, is still far from being understood and demand new data and analysis tools. Read more|
|Upper atmosphere: structure and loss to space The less explored part of the atmosphere, with large changes connected to the lower layers, is a key for spacecraft aerobraking and evolutionary studies. Read more|
|Day-night transition: The region to be studied in greatest detail by ExoMars 2016 TGO presents drastic changes and special challenges for modelling and for remote sounding. Read more.|
|New retrieval tools, validation and optimization for ExoMars: A distinct goal prior to ExoMars is to use all previous data and experience to improve tools and hence maximize its scientific return. Read more. .|
|Revised global climatology from novel data assimilation: Data assimilation, a powerful tool to supply reference databases, is here subject to an ambitious extension in order to operate with trace gases and combine different types of observations to maximise the scientific return. Read more.|
The UPWARDS project has built a synergistic collaboration, from expert European Mars research teams, in preparation for a joint exploitation of ExoMars 2016 and 2018. UPWARDS is devoted to a multi-disciplinary research of available Mars data, from the interior and subsurface, to the upper atmosphere and scape to space. The name of UPWARDS refers to this unique combination of teams oriented to understanding the essential couplings within the Martian system.