The detection of atmospheric methane on Mars implies an active methane source. This introduces the possibility of a biotic source with the implied need to determine whether the methane is indeed biotic in nature or geologically generated. There is a clear need for robotic algorithms which are capable of manoeuvring a rover through a methane plume on Mars to locate its source. We explore aspects of Mars methane plume modelling to reveal complex dynamics characterized by advection and diffusion. A statistical analysis of the plume model has been performed and compared to analyses of terrestrial plume models. Finally, we consider a robotic search strategy to find a methane plume source. We find that gradient-based techniques are ineffective, but that more sophisticated model-based search strategies are unlikely to be available in near-term rover missions.

Chemical source localization, gradient-descent algorithms, Mars methane, plume dynamics, source localization
International Journal of Astrobiology
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Nicol, C. (Christopher), Ellery, A, Lynch, B. (Brian), Cloutis, E. (Ed), & De Croon, G. (Guido). (2018). Martian methane plume models for defining Mars rover methane source search strategies. International Journal of Astrobiology, 17(3), 228–238. doi:10.1017/S1473550418000046