NASA will send its next rover to Mars in 2020. It’s about the size of a car (10 ft long without its arm, 9 ft wide, and 7 ft tall), and was modeled after Curiosity’s configuration.
In the image below featured in a Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) blog post, you can see the spacecraft that’ll help the rover reach the red planet. The photo depicts an engineer inspecting the completed design before it heads off to the Space Simulator Facility at JPL for more tests.
The completed cruise stage is seen suspended by cables, which will guide the spacecraft during the seven-month journey. Further down in the image is the aeroshell, which is the protective shield that’s vital during the cruise and the heated entry into Mars’ atmosphere.
Inside the aeroshell and not visible in the photo is “the completed rocket-powered descent stage and the surrogate rover (a stand-in for the real rover, which is undergoing final assembly in JPL’s High Bay 1 cleanroom),” according to JPL.
The rover has four main science goals during its stay on the red planet.
1. Determine whether life ever arose on Mars: The rover will conduct life-searching investigations, such as looking for biosignatures in rock samples. According to NASA, “It is the first rover mission designed to seek signs of past microbial life.”
2. Characterize the climate of Mars: The rover will try to characterize the current Maritain climate conditions, as well as the past Martian climate and causes for climate change.
3. Characterize the geology of Mars: Rocks will be studied to understand more about Mars’ geological processes.
4. Prepare for human exploration: The mission will monitor environmental conditions to better prepare for future manned visits, and test out technologies that use Mars’ natural resources for life support and fuel.
After its July 2020 launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the mission will land February 18, 2021, at Mars’ Jezero Crater.
In other Mars 2020 news, NASA has recently opened an opportunity for the public to send their names to Mars. The public can go to an online form to submit their name, which will be stenciled onto chips carried by the rover. This will represent “the initial leg of humanity’s first round trip to another planet,” according to JPL.
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