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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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NASA Photographs Mars InSight Lander From Space

The spacecraft will operate on the surface for one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days, or sols, until November 24, 2020

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NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
NASA Photographs Mars InSight Lander From Space. Flickr

NASA has pinpointed the exact landing location of its newly launched InSight lander, using a powerful camera onboard another of the agency’s spacecraft, hovering around the Red Planet.

On November 26, InSight landed within a 130 km ellipse at Elysium Planitia on Mars. However, there was no way to determine exactly where it touched down within this region.

The HiRISE (which stands for High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) aboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spotted Martian landscape and ground around the lander on Thursday, NASA said in a statement.

It released three new features on the Martian landscape, which appear to be teal. However, it is not their actual colour, but light reflected off their surfaces caused the colour to be saturated.

“The ground around the lander appears dark, having been blasted by its retro-rockets during descent. Look carefully for a butterfly shape, and you can make out the lander’s solar panels on either side,” NASA said.

HiRISE also spotted the lander’s heat shield and parachute, on December 6 and again on December 11, NASA said.

InSight, Mars, NASA, Martian Wind
InSight will study the interior of Mars, and will explore valuable science as NASA prepares to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars. VOA

They are within 1,000 feet (several hundred meters) of one another on Elysium Planitia, the flat lava plain selected as InSight’s landing location.

Meanwhile, the InSight lander also took a first selfie using the spacecraft’s robotic arm on December 6.

It snapped a mosaic made up of 11 images, which includes the lander’s solar panel and its entire deck, including its science instruments, weather sensor booms and UHF antenna.

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The lander also sent another set of mosaic composed of 52 individual photos, showcasing the “workspace” — the approximately 14-by-7-foot (4-by-2-metre) crescent of terrain directly in front of the spacecraft, NASA noted.

InSight will study the interior of Mars, and will explore valuable science as NASA prepares to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars.

The spacecraft will operate on the surface for one Martian year, plus 40 Martian days, or sols, until November 24, 2020. (IANS)