The MARSIS instrument works by sending low frequency radio waves to the surface of Mars. Some of these waves bounce off the surface, while others travel deeper – and some of them bounce off lower layers, such as ice or rock. This allows scientists to get a view of what lies below the Martian surface without having to visit the surface or dig anything up. This instrument is particularly useful for looking for traces of water on Mars. There is no liquid water on the surface of Mars, but it is believed that there is water under the surface, as large salt water lakes under the ice at the south pole of the planet. It was one of the Mars Express’ major discoveries back in 2018.
Finding water is important for two reasons: firstly because it is a useful resource for any future humans who may visit the planet, and secondly because it could help identify places on Mars where there might have been of life. Thanks to its upgrades, Mars Express will now be able to study liquid water signals below the surface in more detail. “The new software will help us study these regions faster and more thoroughly at high resolution and confirm whether they harbor new water sources on Mars,” said ESA Mars Express scientist Colin Wilson. “It really is like having a brand new instrument on Mars Express almost 20 years after launch.”
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