Image of SHARAD instrument


The Shallow Radar is also known as SHARAD. The radar "pings" the surface of Mars in search of a strong radar return wave that may indicate the presence of underground liquid or frozen water.

Tech Specs

Main Job To look for liquid or frozen water in the first few hundreds of feet (up to 1 kilometer) of Mars' crust.
Mass 33 pounds (15 kg)
Size A SHARAD Electronics Box, and a ~33-foot (10-meter) antenna made up of two ~16-foot (5 meter) foldable tubes.
Data Return The data volume for SHARAD is limited by the MRO allocation of 15% of its total data, which typically ranges from 40 to 90 Gb/day.
Frequencies Transmits "chirps" lasting 85-μsec (microseconds) each at radio frequency from 15 megahertz to 25 megahertz (wavelengths of about 50 feet, or 15 meters, in free space) with 10 watts of power.
Resolution Horizontal resolution of between ~0.2 and ~2 miles (between 0.3 and 3 kilometers) and a vertical resolution of about 50 feet (15 meters) in free space, which translates into better than 32 feet (10 meters) in the Martian subsurface.

Shallow Radar

SHARAD (Shallow Radar) looks for liquid or frozen water in the first few hundreds of feet (up to 1 kilometer) of Mars' crust.

SHARAD probes the subsurface using radar waves within a 15- to 25-megahertz frequency band to get the desired, high-depth resolution.

The radar wave return, which is captured by the SHARAD antenna, is sensitive to changes in the electrical reflection characteristics of rock, sand, and any water that may be present in the surface and subsurface. Water, like high-density rock, is highly conducting, and has a very strong radar return. Changes in the reflection characteristics of the subsurface, caused by layers deposited by geological processes in the ancient history of Mars, are also visible.

The instrument has a horizontal resolution of between 0.3 and 3 kilometers (between two-tenths of a mile and almost 2 miles) and a vertical resolution of 15 meters (about 50 feet) in free space, which translates into better than 10 meters in the martian subsurface. Subsurface features on the order of these dimensions are observable.

SHARAD was provided by the Italian Space Agency (ASI). The Principal Investigator (lead scientist) is Roberto Seu.

US investigators selected to participate are:

  • Roger Phillips - team co-leader, Washington University
  • Jeff Plaut - Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology
  • Bruce Campbell - National Aeronautics and Space Museum/Smithsonian

Visit the instrument site: SHARAD Instrument Site