The first meeting of HABIT science team has consisted of an intense series of lectures and discussions focused on the science that support the research to be carried out by means of the instrument regarding two main subjects: the formation of brines and the habitability potential on Mars. These issues constitute the core of HABIT operations within the upcoming ExoMars 2020 mission.
After a brief presentation of the Atmospheric Science Group and its current research activities by professor Javier Martín-Torres, chair of the Group, professor Mª Paz Zorzano-Mier opened the sessions with a first “panoramic” talk.
She put HABIT into its historical context (links with previous missions), and outlined the foreseen course of its development, highlighting the milestones to be reached until its eventual arrival to Mars. She remarked the successive challenges to be faced from now on, and advertised about the difficulties they entail. Yet, she cleared out that every step forward taken from now on can be considered a success in itself, so they will be worth the effort.
The subsequent series of lectures by different members of the HABIT science team dealt with their respective areas of expertise, with relation to the studies the instrument is intended to perform. Several approaches to the formation of brines process and to the evaluation of habitability were posed as a basis upon which proceed along the definition of the instrument configuration and operations. There was also room for other issues which can help to frame HABIT’s investigations into its environmental contest, such as Mars climatic models, or geological characterization of the pre-selected ExoMars 2020 landing sites , as well as the optimal way of managing the data HABIT will hopefully provide.
The meeting has been taken advantage of to schedule some open-door talks about Mars, its evolution and its habitability, which were put the cap on with the projection of “The Martian”, followed by a scientific discussion about the situation depicted in the movie which, basically, matches with the plans for the future exploration of the planet.
HABIT will be launch on 2020, so there is still a long way to traverse. The main outcome of the meeting has been the schedule of the goals to reach within the next six months, including the search for funds (a constant concern for scientists), the development of theoretical studies, laboratory experiments and field site campaigns to be performed, the establishment of synergies with other instruments on the mission and other related investigations, and the publication of papers on the ongoing research, together with some other issues which will be crucial along “the long and winding road” to the final culmination of this ambitious project.
Different moments of the First HABIT Science Team meeting and the Team itself in the middle