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NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission won’t halt due to crack in its heat shield

In a statement this week, NASA said it was working to build a replacement heat shield structure for the Mars rover.

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The concept received funding through NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts programme, which will provide $100,000 for feasibility studies.
The concept received funding through NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts programme, which will provide $100,000 for feasibility studies.. Pixabay
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NASA has said that a crack that it detected in the Mars 2020 rover’s heat shield will not change the mission’s launch date.

The fracture, which occurred near the shield’s outer edge and spans the circumference of the component, was discovered on April 12, after the shield completed a week-long test at a Lockheed Martin facility near Denver.

In a statement this week, NASA said it was working to build a replacement heat shield structure for the Mars rover.

NASA has said that a crack that it detected in the Mars 2020 rover's heat shield will not change the mission's launch date.
Representational Image, Pixabay

“The situation will not affect the mission’s launch readiness date of July 17, 2020,” the statement added.

The test was designed to subject the heat shield to forces up to 20 per cent greater than those expected during entry into the Martian atmosphere.

The heat shield is part of the thermal protection system and aeroshell designed to encapsulate and protect the Mars 2020 rover and landing system from the intense heat generated during descent into the Martian atmosphere.

Also Read: Uranus Smells Like Rotten Eggs, Say Scientists 

The structure was originally tested in 2008 and was one of two heat shields manufactured in support of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, which successfully landed the Curiosity rover on Mars in August 2012.

The current heat shield will be repaired in order to support the pre-launch spacecraft testing while a new heat shield structure is readied for flight over the next year, NASA said.

The Mars 2020 rover is designed to seek signs of habitable conditions on the planet in the ancient past, and also search for signs of past microbial life. (IANS)

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NASA: No contact Made With Storm-Hit Mars Rover, Till Now

Because Opportunity runs on solar energy, scientists had to suspend science activities to preserve the rover's batteries.

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NASA said no response has been received from the rover as of July 18. Flickr

 NASA is yet to make contact with its Mars Opportunity Rover ever since a massive storm started on the Red Planet in June.

Based on the longevity of a 2001 global storm, NASA scientists estimate it may be September before the haze has cleared enough for Opportunity to power up and call home, the US space agency said this week.

Scientists first observed a smaller-scale dust storm on May 30. By June 20, it had gone global.

For the Opportunity rover, that meant a sudden drop in visibility from a clear, sunny day to that of an overcast one.

Because Opportunity runs on solar energy, scientists had to suspend science activities to preserve the rover’s batteries.

NASA said no response has been received from the rover as of July 18.

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The nearly 15-year-old rover is not out of the woods yet as it could take weeks, or even months, for the dust to start settling. Pixabay

Luckily, all that dust acts as an atmospheric insulator, keeping nighttime temperatures from dropping down to lower than what Opportunity can handle.

But the nearly 15-year-old rover is not out of the woods yet as it could take weeks, or even months, for the dust to start settling.

When the skies begin to clear, Opportunity’s solar panels may be covered by a fine film of dust. That could delay a recovery of the rover as it gathers energy to recharge its batteries. A gust of wind would help, but is not a requirement for a full recovery, NASA said.

While the Opportunity team waits in earnest to hear from the rover, scientists on other Mars missions have gotten a rare chance to study this storm.

Also Read-Survival Of Mars Rover Is Under Threat Due To A sandstorm

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Odyssey, and Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiters are all tailoring their observations of the Red Planet to study this global storm and learn more about Mars’ weather patterns.

Meanwhile, the Curiosity rover is studying the dust storm from the Martian surface, the US space agency added. (IANS)

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