Google+ SpaceTravelFoundation: NASA defines and presents Mars 2020 project

September 2, 2014

NASA defines and presents Mars 2020 project

Dear readers and followers,

Now in the planning stages of +NASA for its Martian mission, the yet-to-be-named rover vehicle will be launched to Mars in 2020 with the aim to collect martian samples. The design of the rover is similar to that of NASA's rover, Curiosity which landed in 2012.

Like NASA's Curiosity rover, Mars 2020 will land using a heat shield, parachute and "sky crane" lander that hovers using rockets while lowering the rover to the surface on cables.

Although the new rover’s science payload is less massive than Curiosity’s, scientists expect the new instruments to be more capable:

  • The rover can drill up to 31 small, cylindrical core samples from rocks and store them for possible retrieval by a future mission.

  • The Mars Oxygen In-situ resource utilization Experiment (MOXIE) will ingest the toxic Martian air and produce breathable oxygen from the carbon dioxide it contains. This is a proof-of-concept device, pointing the way for future astronauts’ life-support systems on Mars.

  • The mast-mounted Supercam images the surface and analyzes the chemical composition and mineralogy of the rocks. Supercam also detects the presence of organic compounds from a distance. Mastcam-Z is a color stereo camera system. It has a zoom capability that we have never had on a Mars rover. It will produce stunning images from the surface of Mars, including in 3-D. It also includes a range of filters carefully selected for geologic studies. And, the zoom capability will help in the planning of drives for the rover. This instrument will be developed by French laboratories.

  • The Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) is an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer for examining the fine-scale elemental composition of the Martian surface.

  • The Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Exploration (RIMFAX) is a ground-penetrating radar providing centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure beneath Mars’ surface. This instrucment will be developed by Norvegian laboratories.

  • The Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence of Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC) spectroscope scans the ground with a laser to detect organic chemicals.

  • A small mast atop the rover contains a set of sensors called the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA), measuring temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity, and the size and shape of wind-blown dust particles.

Source: NASA

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