The Large Mars Atmosphere Simulation Chamber at the University of Winnipeg

Monday, 15 December 2014
Shoshanna B Cole1, Edward Cloutis2, Matthew Cuddy2, Matthew R Izawa2, Paul Mann2, Michael A. Craig3, Valerie Pietrasz4 and Steven W Squyres1, (1)Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, United States, (2)University of Winnipeg, Department of Geography, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, (3)University of Western Ontario, Department of Earth Sciences, London, ON, Canada, (4)California Institute of Technology, Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, Pasadena, CA, United States
We present a new Mars atmosphere simulation chamber (ME: Mars Environment) at the University of Winnipeg Planetary Spectroscopy Facility, available for community use. Our rectangular chamber is 36” wide, 25” high, and 24” deep, with a versatile design capable of accommodating powdered samples, moderately-sized instruments, and geological hand samples and exposing them to a simulated Martian atmosphere. Viewing windows span the upper front and one side, and there are two additional 10”x10” transparent ports on the front, which can be easily opened to install and manipulate apparatus prior to pumping the system down. The windows and ports, which allow for full viewing of the interior, consist of 0.75” thick polycarbonate. The chamber was fabricated from 0.5” thick Al alloy.

Our system includes two externally-controlled sample wheels, each of which can hold up to 16 one-inch diameter samples. The samples can be viewed from above through a pair of windows for spectroscopic analysis. In our current configuration, one window above each wheel is ZnS and the other is sapphire, but these can be easily exchanged with other materials to suit various wavelength transmission ranges. One sample wheel is in thermal contact with copper tubing for heating or cooling; the wheel is removable and the tubing manifold can be configured to hold a hand sample for spectroscopic analysis under a controlled temperature and Martian atmospheric pressure.

The chamber is large enough to accommodate instruments under consideration for landed missions. A 24-wire electrical pass through enables applications such as powering instruments or monitoring chamber properties (temperatures, atmospheric pressure, etc.).

The chamber is available for national and international collaborations and can be used to support a diversity of projects. Our commissioning experiment involves examining the medium-term (several weeks) stability of various water-bearing minerals exposed to Martian surface conditions.