The Mars Atmospheric Constellation Observatory (MACO) Concept
The Mars Atmospheric Constellation Observatory (MACO) represents an innovative approach to characterizing the present Martian climate from the surface into the thermosphere including the hydrological, CO2, and dust cycles together with the energy and momentum budgets. The mission concept is based on a constellation of satellites forming counter-rotating pairs for observing satellite-to-satellite microwave occultations to determine vertical profiles of water vapor, CO2, temperature, pressure, and wind. Satellite radio occultation, used in previous missions such as Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), provides precision, accuracy and vertical resolution typically 1 and sometimes 2 orders of magnitude beyond that of passive radiometers. Furthermore it can measure absolute pressure versus height (which is unobservable by radiometers) and thus remotely determine seasonal CO2 changes and winds. The microwave observations are supplemented by IR observations by a Dust and Ice Sensor (DIS). With the addition of a UV spectrometer, MACO can characterize the upper atmosphere’s composition and thermodynamic structure as well as escape rates. With a three satellite constellation, MACO will sample the Martian atmosphere with more than 80 occultations each day and, with observations from rapidly precessing orbits over at least one Martian year, will characterize the diurnal and seasonal cycles.
KeywordsDiurnal Cycle Vertical Resolution Radio Occultation Martian Atmosphere Mars Global Surveyor
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