The Martian north polar ice cap has locked within it the physical and chemical history of Mars. Chronos is a proposed 2011 Mars Scout Mission which, following a type IV trajectory to Mars, will deliver a pair of thermal drills (cryobots) that will melt their way through the ice cap and, through in-situ observations and meltwater returned to the surface, provide the physical and chemical data to understand Mars' climatic history.
Chronos will examine the conditions under which the ice layers were deposited, thereby determining the recent climate history of Mars. Chronos’ log of images and compositional data will reflect the influence of meteorology, depositional episodes (volcanic, impact, dust storms), and planetary orbital/axial modulation. By studying stratigraphy and sedimentology Chronos will explore the historical relationship between meteorology and morphology. As secondary objectives, Chronos will characterize present-day polar surface/atmosphere interactions and to take advantage of the ideal geophysics platform offered by the polar cap to determine the geothermal gradient of Mars and explore its inner structure with seismometry.
Chronos will reconstruct a polar chronology from the observed stratigraphy, the chemical and isotopic data, and orbirtal models.
Chronos will thermally drill from 10 to 75m into the north polar ice cap and:
• Image visible stratigraphy as an indicator of ice
and dust deposition rates.
• Measure the concentration of dust as a function of depth.
• Measure H2O and CO2 isotopic ratios.
• As a function of depth, analyze the inorganic ionic
species in the meltwater.
• Image the surface topography and morphology of the ice.
• On the surface, measure humidity, T, P, and wind velocity.
• Determine the geothermal gradient in the layers.
• Constrain the internal structure of Mars from
ice sheet response to seismic activity
More information about the CHRONOS mission and preceding work at JPL can be found in:
M.H. Hecht, "CHRONOS: A Journey Through martian History", Fourth Mars polar Conference, 2006, Abstract #8096.
M. Smith et al., "The Chronos Thermal Dril and Sample Handling Technology", Fourth Mars polar Conference, 2006, Abstract #8095
G. Cardell, et al., "A Field Demonstration of the Thermal Drilling Technology for the Chronos Scout 2011 Mission,
Fourth Mars polar Conference, 2006, Abstract #8088
"Our Favorite Martians", Polar Resources Newsletter, 7/26/06
"Martian Field Test", Scientific American, November 2006, 32-33
PI - Michael Hecht (JPL), Deputy PI - Oded Aharonson (Caltech), Co-I's - Richard Alley (Penn State), Deborah Bass (JPL), Shane Byrne (University of Arizona), Greg Cardell (JPL), Ben Clark (Lockheed Martin), Stephen M. Clifford (LPI), David Fisher (NRCan), James W. Head, III (Brown University), , Ken Herkenhoff (USGS), Samuel Kounaves (Tufts University), Carlos Lange (University of Alberta), Chris McKay (NASA Ames), Sarah Milkovich (JPL), Michael Mischna (JPL), Thomas Pike (Imperial College), Stephen Saunders (LPI), Peter Smith (University of Arizona), Chris Webster (JPL)