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NASA ready to proceed with Mars Rover, target launch in 2020

The Mars 2020 rover will investigate a region of Mars where the ancient environment may have been favourable for microbial life, probing the Martian rocks for evidence of past life.

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Mars Rover 2020. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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  • The Mars 2020 rover will investigate a region of Mars where the ancient environment may have been favourable for microbial life, probing the Martian rocks for evidence of past life
  • Samples of soils and rocks would be collected throughout the mission and cache them on the surface for potential return to Earth by a future mission
  • Once a mission receives preliminary approval, it must go through four rigorous technical and programmatic reviews — known as Key Decision Points (KDP) to proceed through the phases of development prior to launch

NASA is ready to start with design and construction of Mars Rover, scheduled to launch in 2020 summer and will arrive on February 2021.

NASA Logo. mage Source: Wikimedia Commons
NASA Logo. mage Source: Wikimedia Commons

“This mission marks a significant milestone in NASA’s Journey to Mars – to determine whether life has ever existed on Mars, and to advance our goal of sending humans to the Red Planet,” said Geoffrey Yoder, Acting Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Samples of soils and rocks would be collected throughout the mission and cache them on the surface for potential return to Earth by a future mission.

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According to Yoder, “The Mars 2020 rover is the first step in a potential multi-mission campaign to return carefully selected and sealed samples of Martian rocks and soil to Earth.”

Mr. Geoffrey Yoder, Acting Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Image Source: science.nasa.gov
Mr. Geoffrey Yoder, Acting Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Image Source: science.nasa.gov

To reduce risk and provide cost savings, the 2020 rover will look much like its six-wheeled, one-tonne predecessor, Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012, but with an array of new science instruments and enhancements to explore Mars as never before, NASA said in a statement.

The Mars 2020 rover, will use the same sky crane landing system as Curiosity, but will have the ability to land in a more challenging terrain with two enhancements, making more rugged sites eligible as safe landing candidates, the US space agency pointed out.

The Mars 2020 mission has already passed an extensive review process and a major development milestone.

Payload Mars Rover 2020. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Payload Mars Rover 2020. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Once a mission receives preliminary approval, it must go through four rigorous technical and programmatic reviews — known as Key Decision Points (KDP) to proceed through the phases of development prior to launch.

Phase A involves concept and requirements definition, Phase B is preliminary design and technology development, Phase C is final design and fabrication, and Phase D is system assembly, testing, and launch. Mars 2020 has just passed its KDP-C milestone.

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“Since Mars 2020 is leveraging the design and some spare hardware from Curiosity, a significant amount of the mission’s heritage components have already been built during Phases A and B,” George Tahu, Mars 2020 Programme Executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington said.

Design of Mars Rover 2020. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Design of Mars Rover 2020. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

“With the KDP to enter Phase C completed, the project is proceeding with final design and construction of the new systems, as well as the rest of the heritage elements for the mission,” Tahu added. (IANS)

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Parker Solar Probe Working As Planned: NASA Mission Controllers

Further instrument check-outs and deployments are scheduled in the coming days for the spacecraft.

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Several other designs on the spacecraft keep Parker Solar Probe sheltered from the heat. Flickr

NASA ‘s historic mission to solve the mysteries of the Sun which was launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket on August 12 is operating according to plan, mission controllers have said.

As of 12 p.m. EDT on August 16, the Parker Solar Probe was 4.6 million kms from Earth, travelling at 62,764 kms per hour, and heading toward its first Venus flyby scheduled for October 3, 2018, Geoff Brown of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, or APL, in Maryland, wrote in a NASA blog post on Friday.

The spacecraft will use Venus to slightly slow itself and adjust its trajectory for an optimal path toward the first perihelion of the Sun on November 5 this year.

“Parker Solar Probe is operating as designed, and we are progressing through our commissioning activities,” said Project Manager Andy Driesman of APL.

This solar probe is humanity’s first-ever mission into the Sun’s atmosphere, called the corona. Here it will directly explore solar processes that are key to understanding and forecasting space weather events that can impact life on Earth.

The mission has already achieved several planned milestones toward full commissioning and operations, according to the mission controllers.

NASA-Parker-Solar-Probe
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe in Space. (IANS)

On August 13, the high-gain antenna, which Parker Solar Probe uses to communicate high-rate science data to Earth, was released from locks which held it stable during launch.

Controllers have also been monitoring the spacecraft as it autonomously uses its thrusters to remove (or “dump”) momentum, which is part of the flight operations of the spacecraft.

Managing momentum helps the spacecraft remain in a stable and optimal flight profile.

There are four instrument suites on board Parker Solar Probe, which will each need to be powered and readied for science data collection.

The FIELDS investigation, which consists of the most elements, went first. It was powered up on August 13 for two activities, Brown said.

First was the opening of the clamps which held four of the five FIELDS antennas stowed during takeoff.

These antennas will be deployed roughly 30 days after launch, and they will stick out from the corners of the spacecraft’s heat shield called the Thermal Protection System and be exposed to the harsh solar environment.

Parker solar probe
The spacecraft, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. IANS

Second, the spacecraft’s magnetometer boom was fully deployed. This boom contains three magnetometers and a fifth, smaller electric field antenna, all part of the FIELDS suite.

Also Read: India will Send a Manned Flight into Space by 2020: Modi

Further instrument check-outs and deployments are scheduled in the coming days for the spacecraft, Brown said. (IANS)