By Louis Marlow

A University of Huddersfield scientist is helping pave the way for the first manned mission to Mars.

Thanks to research by Dr Thomas Smyth, scientists have greater insight into the atmospheric conditions on Mars than ever before.

The findings of the project will help them identify safe landing sites with increased accuracy and further paves the way for the first manned mission to the red planet.

Dr Smyth is a senior lecturer in Physical Geography within the Department of Biological and Geographical Sciences in the School of Applied Sciences.

Alongside researchers from Ulster University, California Institute for Technology (Caltech) and the University of Wisconsin Madison in the USA, the research has discovered a more informed and realistic Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) microscale modelling method.

CFD is a method regularly used in car design, turbomachinery, ship design and aircraft manufacturing. It uses applied mathematics, physics and computational software to visualise how a gas or liquid flows, as well as how the gas or liquid affects objects as it flows past.

The research has been published in the journal PLOS ONE, and has developed scientists’ understanding of how sand dunes work on Mars.

“We used to think sand dunes on Mars were perhaps static and didn’t move,” said Dr Smyth (above). “But as spacecraft started orbiting the planet and rovers landed on Mars, we started to notice they moved relatively quickly and Mars was in fact, actually quite dynamic.”

The work could make a landing on Mars a lot easier in the future.

“A nested modelling approach allows for a more landscape-scale understanding to be obtained on the movement of the sand dunes on Mars and could avoid situations such as placing a Rover in an area that we suddenly find out is incredibly dynamic,” added Dr Smyth.