After touching down on the Red Planet Feb. 18, 2021, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will scour Jezero Crater to help us understand its geologic history and search for signs of past microbial life. But the six-wheeled robot won’t be looking just at the surface of Mars: The rover will peer deep below it with a ground-penetrating radar called RIMFAX.
Unlike similar instruments aboard Mars orbiters, which study the planet from space, RIMFAX will be the first ground-penetrating radar set on the surface of Mars. This will give scientists much higher-resolution data than space-borne radars can provide while focusing on the specific areas that Perseverance will explore. Taking a more focused look at this terrain will help the rover’s team understand how features in Jezero Crater formed over time.
Short for Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment, RIMFAX can provide a highly detailed view of subsurface structures down to at least 30 feet (10 meters) underground. In doing so, the instrument will reveal hidden layers of geology and help find clues to past environments on Mars, especially those that may have provided the conditions necessary for supporting life.
“We take an image of the subsurface directly beneath the rover,” said Svein-Erik Hamran, the instrument’s principal investigator, with the University of Oslo in Norway. “We can do