Concept Evaluation of Mars Drilling and Sampling Instrument

© Matti Anttila, 2005

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About this web page

This web page contains my Ph.D. thesis: Concept Evaluation of Mars Drilling and Sampling Instrument, which I defended on the 27th May 2005 in Helsinki University of Technology, Laboratory of Space Technology. Also some related material is presented.

This page contains the thesis in HTML format only regarding the two first and last chapters. The whole thesis can be downloaded in PDF format here:

PDF format   Doctoral Thesis, Matti Anttila [8.5 MB]



 

The MASA Drill

The MASA Drill Unit (DU), presented in the Ph.D.thesis and in Figure A below, is a revolver-type miniature deep-driller and sampler machine. Its main purpose is to be able to drill and sample all kinds of materials that could be found on Mars. The size, mass and power consumption are tightly budgeted, and still the system must be very reliable and robust. The main platform for the MASA DU in this study has been the ESA's ExoMars rover's Pasteur payload. ESA has not chosen (at the time of writing) any drill unit for the ExoMars rover, and this MASA drill is a concept, which could be feasible instrument to ExoMars rover. However, this is just a study work, not a commercial project, and ESA has not funded this work.

There is no dedicated Central Processing Unit (CPU) for the MASA DU, but the drill is commanded through the Pasteur CPU. There is an electronics board for the drill, which is situated in the Pasteur electronics box. The drill software (SW) runs on the Pasteur CPU.
In principle, the MASA DU is similar to the MRoSA2U Drilling and Sampling Subsystem (DSS), but several changes have been designed based on the past experience with the MRoSA2 and MRoSA2U DSS and several drilling tests made during the MIRANDA projects. A new concept has been proposed to the drill unit, but the associated SW and hardware, such as the Drill Positioning Unit (DPU) and electronics, have been introduced only in a high-level design.
Exact dimensions of the MASA drill are estimates in the current phase of design. The width of the MASA DU is 140 x 140 mm, and the height is 444 mm. The total volume of the DU is 8.70 liters, and the estimated mass is 9.2 kg (mass breakdown shown in Appendix VII). This value could vary significantly in both directions by using different materials and design. The most important issue is that the mass and size estimates are well within the limits of the Pasteur Drill System SRD [95], which requires the Drill System be at most 160 x 160 x 500 mm of size and 11 kg of mass. The mass and size estimates for the DPU and lever were not studied nor estimated.
The MASA Drill Unit has one optical fiber and three copper wires in the drill string. These copper wires can be used either in analogue, 'traditional' manner in the temperature measurements, or then the pipes and/or tools might be equipped with TC/TM-line relays.
A summary of key parameters is presented in Table A below.

  The MASA drill concept.
Figure A: The MASA drill concept.


Table A: Summary of the MASA drill unit.

Doctoral Thesis contents:



 

Abstract

The search for possible extinct or existing life is the goal of the exobiology investigations to be undertaken during future Mars missions. As it has been learnt from the NASA Viking, Pathfinder and Mars Exploration Rover mission, sampling of surface soil and rocks can gain only limited scientific information. In fact, possible organic signatures tend to be erased by surface processes (weathering, oxidation and exposure to UV radiation from the Sun).

The challenge of the missions have mostly been getting there; only roughly one third of all Mars missions have reached their goal, either an orbit around the planet, or landing to the surface. The two Viking landers in the 1970's were the first to touch down the soil of Mars in working order and performing scientific studies there. After that there was a long gap, until 1997 the Pathfinder landed safely on the surface and released a little rover, the Sojourner. In 2004 other rovers came: the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit and a while after that, the sister rover Opportunity. These five successful landings are less than half of all attempts to land on Mars. Russia, Europe and the United States have all had their landers, but Mars is challenging. Even Mars orbit has been tough to reach by many nations' orbiters. It is then understandable that of these five successful landings, performed by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), there have not yet been very complicated mechanical deep-drilling instruments onboard. The risks to get there are great, and the risk of malfunctioning of a complicated instrument there is also high. Another reason to avoid a deep-driller from the lander payload is simply the mass constrains. A drill is a heavy piece of payload, and the mass allocations for scientific instruments are small.

In the launch window of 2009, both European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA have their plans to send a rover to Mars. Both of them will include some means to analyse the subsurface material. ESA's rover, called the ExoMars rover, will carry a deep-driller onboard in its Pasteur payload. At the time of writing this thesis, an exact definition of the Pasteur drill has not yet been defined.

The author of this thesis has studied the driller instruments in his past work projects and in his doctoral studies. The main focus of this thesis is to analyse the feasibility of different drill configurations to fit to the requirements of the ExoMars' Pasteur payload drill by using the information gathered from the past projects. In this thesis, the author introduces a new concept of a robotic driller, called the MASA drill. The MASA drill fulfils the needs for the drill instrument onboard the Pasteur payload. The main study in this thesis concentrates on design work of the MASA drill, as well as analysis of its operation and performance capabilities in the difficult task of drilling and sampling.


 

Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION

This thesis covers the problem of developing a Mars drilling and sampling instrument in concept level. The aim is to use current research experience and knowledge to derive an instrument, which fulfils the requirements of near-future missions. Mars has been under study of robotic explorers for decades, but there has never been an instrument, which can acquire truly subsoil samples (if one does not take into account trenches of rover's wheels or scratches made by the scoops of robotic landers). A drill, which can be accommodated to a very small space, consumes little power, and still is able to penetrate deep layers of Martian soil and rock, is hard to make. And we are not yet even talking about the sample acquisition from unknown terrain type, let alone the requirement to use the same drill for multiple samplings and possible in-situ measurements in the borehole.

In this thesis, the problems of drilling and sampling are covered in details. Using experience of past projects, a potential solution is offered to satisfy the needs of near-future robotic Mars exploration missions.

1.1 Objective of the thesis

The objectives of this thesis are:

  • To evaluate current and existing Mars drilling and sampling instruments:
  • An evaluation has been done to both past and currently operating instruments, and also to existing public plans of near-future missions. In addition, some instruments that have been operated in other celestial bodies than Mars have also been studied in this thesis.
  • To specify the requirements for future Mars drilling and sampling instruments:
  • There are some plans to examine Martian soil in near-future time-scale by drilling and sampling it with various kinds of instruments. The general technical requirements for an instrument vary based on the required results. These requirements were studied focusing to the requirements of ExoMars mission's Pasteur Drill System.
  • To find a solution to modify current instrument concepts to fulfil the future needs:
  • The focus has been especially in the ESA's ExoMars mission, which is planned for launch in the 2009 launch window. The thesis presents a new drill instrument concept, named the MASA drill.

1.2 Why Mars?

Mars is the primary place to study in a detailed manner, because it is the most Earth-like planet in our Solar System. Recent measurements show the presence of water [70], which raises the likelihood of finding traces of extinct life. In addition, Mars is also the most hospitable celestial body for humans to visit. Although the Moon is much closer than Mars, the latter offers far better conditions for astronauts to explore the surface due to the day length, greater gravity and radiation protection. Even Venus is closer than Mars, but runaway greenhouse effect has developed a very dense carbon dioxide atmosphere. This, in turn, has resulted in the escape of all of its possibly existed water, and created an infernal surface temperature of nearly 500 °C [59].

Exploring Mars will enhance our knowledge of the Solar System's history, and the formation of the planets. In case Mars has watery past, there are high chances that it has also hosted life in its history. If traces of extinct life could be found, that would naturally raise some fundamental questions and change the way that the humankind thinks of the life itself.
Even though it is said that one competent field geologist could achieve the same results in one day that a robot could do in its whole lifetime, it is not always feasible to send astronauts instead of robotic explorers. Before the astronauts can be sent to the Red Planet, a thorough research is to be done in several science areas. At the time of writing this thesis, there are two astronauts orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS orbits Earth in about 400 km height. During the Apollo program, humans visited the Moon, which is about 400000 km away, a thousand times farther than the ISS. That is the longest voyage that humans have ever made. At the most distant point of its orbit, Mars is about 400 millions kilometres from Earth. That is one thousand times more than the distance from Earth to the Moon. The United States have their 'Vision for Space Exploration' program [57], which aims for a manned Mars mission. Europe has ESA's Aurora [51] program with the same goal. But before the humans will set their feet to the Martian surface, the robots will have to do the fundamental basic research.

1.3 Planet Mars

Mars is the third closest neighboring large celestial body to our planet, right after the Moon and planet Venus. Mars, being the fourth planet from the Sun, resides with Earth in a region of the Solar System where liquid water can exist on the surface (regarding the temperature aspect), and therefore the chance that life is, or once was, present on Mars remains a distinct possibility and the key question of Mars research. Mars has been named after the Roman god of war (Ares in Greek history), and the planet was probably given this name because of its red color, resembling blood in the battlefields. Therefore Mars is frequently referred to as the Red Planet. Now we know that the red color is caused by rust (iron oxide) on the surface. An image of the planet is seen in Figure 1, which has been taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in August 2003 (Mars opposition) [22]. A surface view is seen in Figure 2, taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit in March 2004 [23].

  Planet Mars seen by the Hubble space telescope.
Figure 1: Planet Mars seen by the Hubble space telescope [22].
1.3.1 Environmental conditions

Mars has an atmosphere, but it is quite different from that of Earth (see Appendix III). The main constituent is carbon dioxide, with only small amounts of other gases, such as nitrogen, argon and oxygen. Even that the Martian atmosphere contains only about one thousandth as much water vapor as our air, still this amount of water can condense out, forming clouds high in the Martian atmosphere. Even some local patches of early morning fog can form in deep valleys. At the Viking Lander 2 site at Utopia Planitia [33] (Figure 3), a thin layer of water frost [60] covered the ground each winter during the mission's lifetime in 1976-1980. This frost period lasted for a third of the Martian year. The atmosphere is so thin, that it cannot support liquid water on the planet's surface. There is still some evidence that in the past Mars may have had a denser atmosphere. For millions of years ago, there may have been flowing water on the surface. Orbiters have imaged physical features, which seem to be shorelines, riverbeds and islands. These features suggest that great rivers once existed in Mars. But the surface pressure is not the only factor that affects to the existence of liquid water; Mars is cold. The average (recorded) temperature on the Red Planet is -63°C with a maximum temperature of about 25°C and a minimum recorded temperature of -140°C [61]. The average atmospheric pressure on the surface is only about 7 millibars (see Appendix III), but it varies greatly with altitude from about 10 millibars in the deepest basins to only 1 millibar at the top of the Olympus Mons mountain. Despite that the Mars' surface pressure is very low (Mars' surface pressure is equal to Earth's atmospheric pressure at 30 km height), the atmosphere is thick enough to support very strong winds and vast dust storms. These storms occasionally engulf the entire planet for several months. Mars' thin atmosphere produces a greenhouse effect but it is only enough to raise the surface temperature by 5°C; much less than can be seen on Venus or Earth. Another issue affecting Mars' surface temperature is its orbit. Unlike Earth's orbit, Mars' orbit is highly elliptical. Between aphelion and perihelion (orbit's farthest and closest point to the Sun, respectively), the average temperature variations are about 30°C. So the orbital phase, together with the tilted rotation axis, has effect to Mars' climate. The temperature and the atmospheric pressure are both factors that must be taken into account when designing a drilling and sampling machine into Martian environment. Basically, the pressure issue is similar to when dealing with vacuum conditions, although even the thin atmosphere of Mars has some effects regarding the dust accumulation and thermal issues, in some means also to the electric charge exchange [71]. The atmosphere in Mars, despite being only about 1/150 of Earth's atmospheric pressure, is actually a good matter for thermal issues. In pure vacuum conditions the variations of shadow and light are extremely sharp, and the temperature variations are extreme and fast. This exposes the structures to larger thermal stress, possibly causing mechanical damage in shorter time than in a situation where thermal differences occur in longer time interval.

  The surface of Mars, seen by the Mars rover Spirit.
Figure 2: The surface of Mars, seen by the Mars rover Spirit [23].
1.3.2 Geological conditions

Even though Mars is a smaller planet than Earth (average radiuses are 3397 km and 6378 km, respectively), the land area is about the same for both planets. This is because more than 70% of Earth is covered with ocean. Mars has some exceptional landmarks [34] (Figure 3); Valles Marineris is a canyon system of about 4000 km long and from 2 to 7 km deep. The canyon was named after the spacecraft Mariner 4, which was the first spacecraft to visit Mars in 1965 [54]. Olympus Mons is the largest known mountain in our Solar System. The mountain peak is about 24 km higher than the surrounding plain, and the diameter of the mountain base is more than 500 km. Tharsis Montes is a huge bulge of Martian crust more than 4000 km across and 10 km higher than surrounding lowlands at its top. It is the largest volcanic region on Mars, containing 12 large volcanoes. Hellas Planitia is an impact basin in the southern hemisphere. Nearly 9 km deep and 2100 km across, the basin is surrounded by a ring of material that rises about 2 km above the surroundings and stretching out to 4000 km from the basin center.

  Global topographic map of Mars. Major surface features are labelled (Credit: MOLA Science Team).
Figure 3: Global topographic map of Mars. Major surface features are labelled (Credit: MOLA Science Team) [55]. Topographic scale (in metres) is seen below the image.

Unlike the Earth, Mars lacks active plate tectonics. In this way Mars is similar to, e.g. the Moon and Mercury. There is no evidence of horizontal movement of Mars' crust, which could for example show up in a form of folded mountains. Besides having no lateral surface motion, there are no active volcanoes on Mars. This theory is still under discussion, since recent measurements of ESA's Mars Express orbiter show traces of methane in Mars' atmosphere [58]. One of the probable sources of methane could be volcanic activity. However, methane has been also detected in some earlier measurements [69]. Satellite images from Mars orbiters, such as the Viking Orbiters, MGS, Odyssey and MEX suggest that there was once liquid water on Mars. The images show valley networks, river systems, flood plains, islands and clear signs of erosion made almost certainly by running water. Just like on Earth, on Mars can be found appearances of smaller channels and networks of tributaries, forming larger rivers. Some channels on Mars may have been formed by subsurface water, which reached the Martian surface through several small springs over the planet. Ancient lakes can be seen in some areas [34], which are the lower courses for the rivers. These dry lakes may have been deposited by sediment layers. It seems that there may have been huge lakes or even oceans in Mars in its past, but this occurred only briefly and very long ago. The age of the erosion channels is estimated at about nearly 4 Gyr [34]. Valles Marineris, seen in Figure 1, was not created by running water, but it was formed by the stretching and cracking of the crust associated with the creation of the Tharsis bulge (Figure 3). Martian and other planetary surface layer is usually called 'regolith'. It is a layer of loose material, including soil, subsoil, and broken rock, that covers bedrock. On the Moon, Mars, and many other bodies in the Solar System, it consists mostly of debris produced by meteorite impacts and blankets most of the surface [67]. Therefore virtually every (rocky) surface in the Solar System consists of regolith

Mars has only a very weak magnetic field compared to the Earth. NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter discovered in 1997 that Mars has over eight 'magnetic patches', which might be the remnants of an ancient magnetic field. The axes of these patches are pointing in all different directions. Even the strongest magnetic field is roughly 1.3% of Earth's magnetic field only. The magnetic field fragments could have been formed in the past, when iron-rich Martian rocks rose to the surface at different times, and then became trapped in the surrounding rocks. The result of this may have important implications for the structure of planet's interior and for the past history of Mars' atmosphere, and hence for the possibility of an ancient life. The lack of a magnetic field is also a significant issue for future manned Mars missions. The cosmic rays and solar wind particles penetrate quite easily the thin Martian atmosphere, especially when there is no magnetic field protecting the astronauts. Also seen in Figure 1 is Mars' north pole with an ice cap. The planet has permanent ice caps at both poles composed mostly of solid carbon dioxide (regarding the ice caps' surface layer), but recent measurements show traces of water ice (water ice traces on south polar cap: The OMEGA experiment onboard ESA's MEX orbiter). These polar caps are formed of a layered structure with varying concentrations of water ice, carbon dioxide ice (solid CO2 is also known as 'dry ice') and dust. The thickness of the ice caps varies with seasonal variation. The northern ice cap completely sublimes in Martian summer, exposing the water ice underneath the carbon dioxide layer. The southern polar cap seems not to be similar by behavior, since the carbon dioxide layer rarely disappears completely. However, as mentioned above, there are recent measurements, which show evidence of water ice also in the southern polar cap [121]. In addition to the polar ice, there possibly exists water ice below the surface in lower latitudes, based on the recent findings of large amounts of hydrogen [75]. The released carbon dioxide from the polar caps changes seasonally the atmospheric pressure by about 30% [76], as measured in the Viking 1 and 2 landing sites during 1976-1982.

1.3.3 Search for water and life

As mentioned above, the first spacecraft to fly-by Mars was NASA's Mariner 4, which performed a Mars fly-by in July 14th, 1965. It took the first close-up photographs of Mars, and in fact, of any another planet ever visited by a spacecraft. After Mariner 4, several other probes followed, but the first ones to perform soft-landing, were the two Viking landers in 1976. At the time of writing this thesis, there have been five successful landings on Mars. Those missions will be covered later in this thesis. All of the spacecrafts that have visited Mars, even taking measurements from orbit or from surface, have tried to find answers to two main questions among taking other measurements: has there been water in liquid form in Mars' past? And if there was water, was there also life in some form? The recent robotic explorers, both orbiters and landers, have revealed that Mars probably was once a wet planet, and therefore possibly suitable for hosting life. But the question for life remains. A search for fossils of microbes or bigger organisms on the Martian surface or below it could provide the answer. So far there has been no trace of life, but subsoil drilling could help the scientist to resolve the mysteries of Mars' past.


 

Chapter 2: WORK ACCOMPLISHED

In 1998, the European Space Agency initiated the Micro Robots for Scientific Applications 2 (MRoSA2) project. The focus of the project was to develop a prototype of a Mars micro rover, which could drill and take samples from down to two-metre depth of Martial soil. The project was carried out in Finland during the years 1999-2001. In 2002, the project got continuation in the form of MRoSA2 Upgrade project (ESTEC purchase order project). The results of these projects are explained in details in Chapter 4. In brief, the MRoSA2 team developed and built a working prototype of a miniature Mars rover, capable of drilling and sampling.

It was never really meant that this MRoSA2 rover could be modified from prototype level to a real flight project. However, the aim was to study the feasibility of this concept, and especially the drill module operation in such a small, confined space. During the years 2000-2001, there were some plans to further study the MRoSA2 concept in a two larger projects: one concentrating on the drill itself, and the other one to the rover concept.

ESA announced its Aurora program [72] in 2001. The goal of the program is to create, and then implement, a European long-term plan for the robotic and human exploration of the solar system, with Mars, the Moon and the asteroids as the most likely targets. After announcing the Aurora's main objectives, ESA soon announced also Aurora's first Flagship mission, the ExoMars mission. The ExoMars mission to Mars will include a Mars lander with a rover, and the rover will include a drill. According to the preliminary plans, the drill will be quite similar to the drill onboard the MRoSA2 rover. When the original MRoSA2 project was concluded in November 2001, the drill development projects were mainly moved under the newly established Aurora program (see Appendix I).

The project team in Finland, that had built the MRoSA2 rover, was excluded from the continuation development of the drilling system, since Finland did not join the Aurora program, which is an optional ESA program. However, as mentioned above, the team got some continuation in the MRoSA2 development when ESTEC purchased upgrade work for the rover (project duration: from November 2002 to May 2003).

During the original MRoSA2 project (1999-2001), the team performed some testing of the system (VTT Automation performed drilling tests, and SSF & HUT performed systems and functional testing). It was actually then when the author of this thesis began documenting the test results and a 'bug list' also for academic purposes, not only because it was mandatory regarding the project work. The MRoSA2 Upgrade project did not include testing, other than the normal systems tests before final delivery [17]. However, the author had then possibility to perform multiple systems testing for the drill module and document improvement possibilities that were out of the scope of the project then, but which could be accomplished in possible later projects. During the Aurora Student Competition (2003), the author gathered a team from HUT to perform the actual drilling tests. This competition project, the 'MIRANDA' project, concluded the drill tests, since for the first time the team had adequate hardware to perform wide-range drilling tests to rocks and sand. After this test, the author modified the existing MIRANDA hardware for additional testing. These tests formed the MIRANDA-2 project, peformed by the author. In addition, the author has been involved in some additional drilling studies described below in Chapter 2.3. The following chapters describe the author's work regarding the topic of this thesis.

2.1 MRoSA2 and MRoSA2-Upgrade projects

The MRoSA2 activity was an ESA funded GSTP project, issued originally in 1998 [12],[13], and conducted during the years 1999-2001 [2]. The acronym MRoSA2 stands for 'Micro Robots for Scientific Applications 2'. The goal of the work was to develop a mobile drilling and sampling system composed of a rover, a drill, sample storage, and a docking and sample delivery port mounted on a lander module. The focus was on the drilling and sample handling; the rover was a functional mock-up and the lander module was a structural mock-up for mounting the docking and sample delivery port. The MRoSA2 project is a key issue to this thesis, since the drill module (developed originally by VTT Automation in Finland) is one of the predecessors for the upcoming ESA's ExoMars rover's drill.

  The MRoSA2 rover and author of this thesis as a size-reference.
Figure 4: The MRoSA2 rover and author of this thesis as a size-reference [32].

The author of this thesis acted as a systems and software engineer in the MRoSA2 project, concentrating to the drill functions and operational issues. Later on, in the MRoSA2 Upgrade project, the author served as the project manager and technical engineer. The goal of the ESA funded upgrade project was to upgrade the rover-drill-combination (Figure 4) from a single-function level to drilling and sampling readiness level in laboratory conditions. During the MRoSA2 project in 2001, the author conducted several reliability and drill-function tests, which are documented in Chapter 5.1. Before these functional tests, VTT Automation conducted several drilling performance tests. These tests are documented in Chapter 5.1.1. Wider drill functional tests were conducted by the author in 2002-2003 during the MRoSA2 Upgrade project, and those tests are documented in Chapter 5.2.

2.2 MIRANDA drill tests

ESA announced the Aurora Student Competition in January 2003 for ESA member states' universities. The competition called for a team, which would then study and document its work aiming for future space technologies. HUT Automation Laboratory team gathered a team, and the author of this thesis acted as a team leader and engineer in the team. The team designed and built a drilling test bench during the 'MIRANDA' project. The scope of the work was to simulate deep drilling in Mars with existing MRoSA2 drill hardware and document the tested results. The project ended in July 2003. Regarding the topic of this thesis, the author started another drill test project by using the existing MIRANDA hardware. This project, called the 'MIRANDA-2', aimed to analyze the temperature variations in the drill bit and in the drilled material during drilling and sampling. These tests were performed from May to October 2004. The existing drill test bench was modified to fit the new project's requirements. The MIRANDA 1 and 2 tests, including the results, are explained in details in Chapters 5.3 and 5.4.

2.3 Other studies

In addition to the tests conducted during the MRoSA2, MRoSA2 Upgrade, MIRANDA and MIRANDA-2 projects, described in the previous chapters, the author has been involved in other studies that are relevant to this thesis. In 2002, the MRoSA2 project team received a Request For Information (RFI) [6] from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). This semi-informal RFI was part of a usual 'scientists-ask-scientists' information exchange, in which JPL Mars engineers wanted to learn about other ongoing Mars projects. During that time, the NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) 2009 mission was in definition phase. It was yet undecided, whether the MSL lander would include a drill or not. The MRoSA2 team received a few possible MSL mission plans, and we made a brief feasibility study about the MRoSA2 drill concept onboard the MSL lander [56]. In addition, after the MRoSA2 project, the author listed some known problems of the system with possible solutions (published in ASTRA2002 conference at ESA ESTEC in 2002 [1]). The publication was taken as reference documentation to the ExoMars / Pasteur System Requirements Document [63].

2.4 Summary of the author's work

Table 1 below summarizes the author's role in different projects that are relevant to this thesis.

Table 1: Summary of the author's participation to the projects relevant to this thesis.
 

Chapter 8:CONCLUSIONS

Planet Mars has been under study for thousands of years, but just over last four decades the exploration has begun to take its shape. This thesis has covered all missions to Mars' surface. The key question has been ruling the exploration regardless the other objects of the missions: has Mars ever been hospitable to life in some form? Recent studies are revealing the ancient presence of water, which raises the likelihood of being able to find traces of extinct life. If Mars once had liquid water, it is compelling to ask whether any microscopic life forms could have developed on its surface. But if there has been any life, the surface processes have wiped away all traces. The thin atmosphere of Mars does not give much shielding against the Sun's ultraviolet radiation, and the windblown dust has eroded the desert-like surface. There is a need to access the subsurface regolith to acquire samples from rocks and soil. The surface layers have protected the deep layers, which might reveal important information of the Mars' past. In addition to finding evidence for past life, exploring Mars will enhance our knowledge of the Solar System's history, and the formation of the planets, including the Earth.

There has never been an instrument on Mars, which can acquire truly subsoil samples. A drill, which could be accommodated in a very small space, would consume little power, and still would be able to penetrate deep layers of Martian soil and rock, is difficult to make. This thesis has explained several past missions which have included a drill instrument, but none of them is suitable for the demanding frames of the ExoMars missions. More detailed studies and tests are needed to qualify an existing concept or prototype to a flight level instrument. The MRoSA2 project could only begin this empirical study.

As a potential solution for this challenging problem, a new concept was presented to satisfy the needs of near-future robotic Mars exploration missions. This instrument, the MASA drill, is a heritage of the MRoSA2 drill. MASA is strongly based on the lessons learned from the two MRoSA2 projects and the MIRANDA drilling tests, and it satisfies the requirements for the Drill System instrument of the ExoMars project.

The main emphasis in this thesis was given to the following issues:

Chapters 1 and 2:

An explanation of the exact motivation for this thesis and what was the author's contribution to this study.

Chapter 3:

What kind of other sampling and drilling projects there have been, and what can we learn of them? Is there already an instrument, either a flown one or only a concept that could possibly be used in the ExoMars mission? All drills and samplers that have been sent to other celestial bodies than Earth were studied. None of them is suitable for the Pasteur payload, but they offer still important advice about different kinds of clever technical solutions, and especially the problems that were encountered during design or operation phases give valuable information.

Chapter 4:

The author was involved in the MRoSA2 projects, which were precursor of the ExoMars/Pasteur drill. The project team manufactured and tested successfully a prototype of a drilling and sampling instrument. There were still much to do to gather the results and to evaluate them for forming a guideline for designing an instrument that could satisfy the strict requirements for a flight model instrument.
No critical (especially self-critical) studies of existing drill prototypes have been published yet. This thesis presents these studies in Chapters 4.3 and 4.5, and the results were used to form the basis of the MASA drill system.

Chapter 5:

The system and drilling tests revealed important information about the technical and functional design of a drill instrument. Several kind of drilling tests have been conducted by different institutes and companies, but the design process of upgrading the MRoSA2 design to fit the Pasteur payload of the ExoMars rover required dedicated testing.
The test results gave not only necessary information for designing the instrument, but they also gave invaluable information how to perform the drilling and sampling to maximize the scientific return of the studies, and to perform the drilling operation in most safe manner to guard both the instrument and the sample. Most of the test results are in line with other tests, conducted by several other companies worldwide. These results can also be utilized in drill developments for other possible missions.
However, some of the test results gave values that were not in line with the estimates. Through these 'tries and errors', several problem situations were noticed that the space drill need to be prepared for.

Chapter 6:

As said, there has never been a drill on Mars yet, and no past instrument has had such a tight list of requirements that have been set for the ExoMars drill. After careful study of these requirements, the design process of the new drill concept was aimed to fulfil these requirements. As a reference, the MRoSA2 Drilling and Sampling Subsystem's, and NASA's Mars Science Laboratory corer tool's system requirements were presented.

Chapter 7:

The MASA drill is a complex instrument, which was designed on a basis of the results of evaluating past and current projects, tests and studies. The aim was to design a concept of a drilling and sampling instrument for the Pasteur payload of the ExoMars mission.


In general, the tests revealed also important results regarding the ESA's ExoMars rover's operations. As mentioned in Chapter 7.7, the energy budget for the sampling system is very tight. Drilling and sampling of rocks consume very much energy, and the harder rock types are difficult to sample. As the current phase of design requires 40 mm long and 10 mm in diameter rock core samples from rocks, the author strongly suggests the length requirement to be dropped down to 20 mm (as it originally was in the earlier phase of design). Other option is to increase the available energy per drill run. Currently there is simply not enough energy to use for sampling of harder rocks when the drill needs to penetrate through rocky surface layers, and the Martian rocks are known to be igneous and thus quite hard to penetrate. The soil samples should not be of concern.
The temperature issue is also very important. Chapter 5.4.5 discussed the results of the MIRANDA-2 tests. These tests revealed that the temperature increase can quite easily be so big, that possible underground ice will melt and mix the sample's structural composition. In addition, some carbonates can be destroyed if the drill bit runs on too great temperature.
The MASA drill, presented in Chapter 7, was compared against the ExoMars/Pasteur Drill System's requirements in Chapter 7.8. Table 37 states that the MASA drill is compliant with the current ESA's Drill System requirements. This was also summarized in Chapter 7.10.
The MASA DU is a method to reach the subsoil material. The idea was not to specify a scientific instrument, but to offer a tool for accommodating these scientific experiments. The MASA drill can be used as it is to collect samples and also to gather some scientific data, mainly regarding soil properties during the drilling operations. Actual detailed measurements are to be made from the acquired samples, or by the instruments that will be accommodated inside the MASA drill string. For this reason the MASA drill includes for example an optical fiber throughout the drill string, but no instrument has been specified to use that (except some ideas, e.g. the DIBS).
The MASA design fulfils the ExoMars drill requirements. In addition, the instrument concept is scalable and potential for using in other missions, such as the future sample return missions.


 

Chapter 9: References

 
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Errata

The Errata contains known errors and typos of the Ph.D. Thesis. All errors remaining are author's errors.

Errata: (refers to the PDF document)

  • Acronyms and abbreviations: Double entries for DSPS, IDD, DSS, USDC.
  • Missing fullstop at the end of the second paragraph of page 21.
  • "faith" should be "fate" on page 31, first paragraph.
  • Page 53: Reference to figure 25 should point to figure 29.
  • Page 55: "decent" should read "descent".
  • Page 56: "NK" is unneeded abbreviation in the table.
  • Page 78: Year "2003" should be "2001".
  • Spelling changes suggested for page 155, "gear transmission has to be...", "There have to be some compromises", and "tended to break easily".
  • Page 156; "The piezo system could also be replaced by a DC motor."
  • Eq.2: Unit error.
  • Eq.3: FA should be written: FR, RC should be written: AC
     


Matti Anttila, 2005