Sat. Aug 17th, 2019

Don’t Neglect, Curiosity’s Sister Rover is Flying to Mars in 2020

Subsequent summer season, NASA will likely be sending it’s Mars 2020 rover to the Purple Planet. Along with being the second rover to go as a part of the Mars Exploration Program, it will likely be one in all eight functioning missions exploring the ambiance and floor of the planet. These embrace the recently-arrived InSight lander, the Curiosity rover – Mars 2020s sister-mission – and
the Alternative rover (which NASA lately misplaced contact with and retired).

Because the launch date will get nearer and nearer, NASA is busily making all the ultimate preparations for this newest member of the Mars exploration staff. Along with deciding on a reputation (which will likely be chosen from an essay contest), this contains finalizing the spacecraft that may take the rover on its seven-month journey to Mars. Not too long ago, NASA posted pictures of the spacecraft being inspected at NASA JPL’s Area Simulator Facility (SFF) in Pasadena, California.

The picture (close-up proven beneath) was taken on Might ninth, 2019, and reveals the spacecraft being loaded into the SSF (aka. the Twenty-5-Foot Area Simulator). Because the identify would counsel, the doorway to this testing chamber measures 7.6 m (25 ft) excessive and four.6 m (15 ft) broad whereas the inside measures 26 m (85 ft) in peak and eight.2 m (27 ft) in diameter.

Engineers testing the spacecraft that may carry the Mars 2020 rover to the Purple Planet. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In-built 1961, this chamber is designed for testing spacecraft in space-like situations, which incorporates extraordinarily chilly temperatures, excessive radiation, and near-vacuum stress. Seen within the picture above is the whole Mars 2020 spacecraft, which is analogous in configuration to people who delivered the Spirit, Alternative, and Curiosity rovers in addition to the InSight lander.

From high to backside, this consists of the cruise stage (suspended by cables) that will likely be answerable for powering and guiding the spacecraft as soon as it’s launched to house. Straight beneath that’s the aeroshell that is available in two components, the white backshell and the black warmth protect beneath. These will shield the car through the cruise part of its mission in addition to throughout its fiery descent into the Martian ambiance.

What will not be seen on this picture is the finished rocket-powered descent stage (aka. “Sky Crane“), which is analogous to what was used to land Curiosity within the Gale Crater on Mars in 2012. The identical is true of the surrogate rover (a stand-in for the true one that’s at present present process last meeting in JPL’s Excessive Bay 1 cleanroom), which just like the Sky Crane is housed throughout the aeroshell.

The parts that make up the Mars 2020 spacecraft, labelled (left) and unlabeled (proper). Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Like all people who got here earlier than, the Mars 2020 spacecraft was examined within the SFF in the identical configuration as when it could be touring to Mars. As soon as the JPL is completed prepping and testing all the mission techniques, the spacecraft and rover will likely be built-in and shipped to Cape Canaveral Air Power Station, the place it is going to launch in July of 2020.

The mission will land on Feb. 18th, 2021, in a location generally known as Jezero Crater. The first focus of the rover will likely be to discover the spectacularly-preserved river delta there, which is proof of an historical lake. Very similar to Curiosity‘s exploration of the Gale Crater, it will enable NASA scientists to research Mars’ hotter, wetter previous.

As with all missions which might be a part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, the general objectives of the Mars 2020 rover will likely be fourfold: One, to find out if life ever existed on Mars (or nonetheless might at the moment); two, characterize the local weather of Mars; three, characterize the geology of Mars; and 4, put together the way in which for people to discover Mars.

Orbital image of the Jezero crater, displaying its fossil river delta. Credit score: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL/MSSS/BROWN UNIVERSITY

To perform these duties, the Mars 2020 rover will likely be carrying a completely new suite of devices. These embrace a sample-caching system that may accumulate samples of Martian soil that will likely be introduced again to Earth by a subsequent mission. This may occasionally contain having the primary crewed mission to the floor choose them up and produce them dwelling through the return journey.

Slowly, we’re peeling again the layers of the onion that’s Mars. With each successive mission we ship, the day will get nearer when boots will lastly land on the Purple Planet. Sometime, all the pieces these missions train us about Mars might go into the creation of a everlasting human presence there.

Additional Studying: NASA

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