Oleg Zabluda's blog
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Mars Curiosity rover carries Russian-built neutron generator and detector, called DAN (Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons),...
Mars Curiosity rover carries Russian-built neutron generator and detector, called DAN (Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons), capable of detecting hydrogen, and therefore water, resolving layers of water and ice up to 2 meters beneath the surface.

Principle Investigator is Dr. Igor Mitrofanov of Russia's Institute for Space Research (IKI) in Moscow, who was also the PI of the high-energy neutron detector (HEND) on the still operational 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter (record), and acting as a UHF radio relay for Curiosity.

HEND on Odyssey measures high energy of neutrons coming from Mars. In 2002, it and companion instruments, detected hydrogen interpreted as abundant underground water ice close to the surface at high latitudes. That discovery led to NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander going to far northern Mars in 2008 and confirming the presence of water ice. 

HEND on Odyssey relies on galactic cosmic rays hitting Mars as a source of neutrons. DAN on Curiosity can work in same passive mode, but in active mode, using own pulsing neutron generator, it is sensitive enough to detect water content of 0.1%.

Information from DAN will also provide a ground-truth calibration for HEND and gamma-ray detectors on Odyssey, enhancing the value of that global data set.



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