NASA Begins Building Its Next Mars Rover

Posted: Dec 2 2017, 3:40am CST | by , Updated: Dec 2 2017, 3:52am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
NASA Begins Building its Next Mars Rover
An artist's impression of NASA's Mars 2020 rover studying a Martian rock. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's next Mars rover mission will be flying to the Red Planet in 2020

NASA’s Mars 2020 Mission, which will look for signs of ancient life on Mars, takes one step closer to the launch pad. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientists have started building Mars 2020 Rover, which is targeted to launch in the summer of 2020 and arrive on the Red Planet in February 2021.

NASA next rover to Mars will carry seven new instruments to explore Martian surface and also collect samples of soil and rock. However, its design is largely based on Curiosity rover’s design, which landed on Mars in 2012. Roughly 85 percent of the Mars 2020 rover will be created with spare hardware previously used in Curiosity rover.

“The fact that so much of the hardware has already been designed—or even already exists—is a major advantage for this mission," said Jim Watzin, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program. "It saves us money, time and most of all, reduces risk."

However, a successful mission to Mars is practically quite difficult. The Mars 2020 rover will investigate a region of Mars that once had liquid water flowing across its surface. But now it has turned into an inhospitable, cold and dry place.

To achieve this goal, Mars next rover will be equipped with an entirely new set of highly sophisticated instruments. The mission will include a coring drill with a miniature robotic am, upgraded wheels and a specially designed parachute. These instruments will allow the rover to land safely and traverse Mars surface in a smooth way while detecting and avoiding hazards.

The 2020 Mars Mission will also have more cameras, colors and advanced 3D-imaging technology than on Curiosity rover. A new radar system will also be incorporated into the rover that will penetrate deep under the surface of Mars and map layers of rock, water and ice for the first time.

“Our next instruments will build on the success of MSL, which was a proving ground for new technology," said George Tahu, NASA's Mars 2020 program executive. "These will gather science data in ways that weren't possible before."

Combining the data obtained from different instruments, the rover will directly search for signs of ancient Martian life and determine the potential habitability of the environment. The mission could potentially return Martian rock samples to Earth.

"Whether life ever existed beyond Earth is one of the grand questions humans seek to answer," said Ken Farley of JPL, Mars 2020's project scientist. "What we learn from the samples collected during this mission has the potential to address whether we're alone in the universe."

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