Modeling the Martian Atmosphere at Potential Landing Sites and Regions of Notable Topography

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Title: Modeling the Martian Atmosphere at Potential Landing Sites and Regions of Notable Topography
Author: Silverman, Morgan Lindsay
Advisors: Gary Lackmann, Committee Co-Chair
Lian Xie, Committee Member
Robert H. Tolson, Committee Co-Chair
Abstract: Since the 1960's several successful missions have been sent to Mars to gain a better understanding of the planet. In 2009, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission is scheduled to launch as part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Mars Exploration Program. To assure the safety of this mission, an understanding of the Martian atmosphere is necessary. This is the first mission that may determine the landing site based on weather conditions. As such, potential landing sites at Terby Crater, Melas Chasma, Gale Crater, and Nili Fossae Trough were studied. Due to limited observations of Mars, the Planetary Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) Mars general circulation model was used to represent the Martian atmosphere. Model validation was conducted against Viking Lander 1, Viking Lander 2, and Mars Pathfinder data and showed that the Planetary WRF model was able to reasonably represent the Martian atmosphere. This research is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on density, temperature, and wind profiles at each potential landing site. These profiles are used to determine the amount of variability engineers must account for in the spacecraft design specifications. All profile deviations were within the MSL design specifications. The largest deviations occurred at Terby Crater while the smallest deviations occurred at Nili Fossae Trough. It appears that the large topographic features of Hellas Basin and Valles Marineris affect the local airflow patterns around Terby Crater and Melas Chasma. The second part focuses on these topographically-forced atmospheric perturbations using two of the largest features on Mars, Hellas Basin and Olympus Mons. Vertically propagating waves were generated over Olympus Mons during the night, while a strong daytime convective boundary layer and diabatic heating plume occurred during the day. Hellas Basin was dominated by cyclonic motion throughout the night and vertically propagating waves along the western edge of the basin during the day. In general, the Planetary WRF model compared to conventional mountain wave theory and was able to model topographic disturbances with coarse resolution. Limitations of the model are discussed.
Date: 2007-11-06
Degree: MS
Discipline: Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/383


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