The history

The Mars group is part of the research group Astrophysics and Planetary Science at the Niels Bohr Institute (NBI) and was originally established by Jens Martin Knudsen, together with Lise Vistisen and its current leader Morten Bo Madsen.


Jens Martin Knudsen

Jens Martin Knudsen (1930-2005). Photo by Ingrid Nakagawa Salinas.

Our research is focused on investigations of the mineral composition of the soil, rocks and particularly the airborne dust on Mars. The main goal is to understand the geological evolution of Mars, especially the history of water, because water is necessary for the evolution and survival of life as we know it.

The Mars group participates in NASA's Mars 2020 mission, where we will deliver a complete radiometric calibration target for the advanced cameras Mastcam-Z, as well as essential parts for the calibration target for the science instrument SuperCam. On the 2020 mission we also work on characterization of Martian airborne dust in relation to its influence on the oxygen production experiment MOXIE.

Furthermore we participate in NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission and its rover Curiosity. In addition, our group has had magnetic experiments onboard the following missions:

  • Phoenix Mars Lander (2008)
  • Mars Exploration Rovers (2004)
  • Mars Surveyor Lander (2001) (cancelled)
  • Mars Polar Lander (1999) (was lost during landing)
  • Mars Pathfinder Lander (1997)

The Viking Landers (1976) also had permanent magnets onboard and so has the Mars Science Laboratory (2012), which means that all successful lander missions to Mars so far have had magnetic properties experiments, or at least magnets, onboard.

Our research contributions

The Mars group has contributed instruments and magnetic properties experiments to several NASA Mars missions, including to the lander and three rovers seen below.

Through the menu on the left you can read about each of the missions, their objectives and results, and the contributions of the Mars group. On the right you can find links to NASA's pages.

The image below shows a size comparison of four different Mars rovers and landers.

  • The Sojourner rover was - together with a lander not shown here - part of the Pathfinder mission, which landed in 1997.
  • The Mars Exploration Rovers were the two identical twins Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on opposite sides of Mars in 2004.
  • The Phoenix lander was the first of NASA's small and low-cost scout missions. It touched down near the northern arctic plains on Mars in 2008.
  • The Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity touched down on Mars in 2012.

The Curiosity model seen here is a version from 2008. See <a

Rovers that landed on Mars

A lander and three rovers from NASA's Mars Exploration Program, all with contributions form the NBI Mars group. Click image for higher resolution. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.