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VIDEO: NASA’s Next Mars Rover Mission Set For Red Planet In Just a Few Years

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VIDEO: NASA’s Next Mars Rover Mission Set For Red Planet In Just a Few Years

NASA — In just a few years, NASA’s next Mars rover mission will be flying to the Red Planet.

At a glance, it looks a lot like its predecessor, the Curiosity Mars rover. But there’s no doubt it’s a souped-up science machine: It has seven new instruments, redesigned wheels and more autonomy. A drill will capture rock cores, while a caching system with a miniature robotic arm will seal up these samples. Then, they’ll be deposited on the Martian surface for possible pickup by a future mission.

This new hardware is being developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, which manages the mission for the agency. It includes the Mars 2020 mission’s cruise stage, which will fly the rover through space, and the descent stage, a rocket-powered “sky crane” that will lower it to the planet’s surface. Both of these stages have recently moved into JPL’s Spacecraft Assembly Facility.

Mars 2020 relies heavily on the system designs and spare hardware previously created for Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover, which landed in 2012. Roughly 85 percent of the new rover’s mass is based on this “heritage hardware.”

“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.”

This artist’s rendition depicts NASA’s Mars 2020 rover studying a Mars rock outrcrop. The mission will not only seek out and study an area likely to have been habitable in the distant past, but it will take the next, bold step in robotic exploration of the Red Planet by seeking signs of past microbial life itself. (Image by NASA)

Despite its similarities to Mars Science Laboratory, the new mission has very different goals.

Mars 2020’s instruments will seek signs of ancient life by studying terrain that is now inhospitable, but once held flowing rivers and lakes, more than 3.5 billion years ago.

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Source : spacecoastdaily
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