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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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New Gamma-Ray Collection Named After Hulk, Godzilla: NASA

Since 2008, Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT) has been scanning the entire sky each day, mapping and measuring sources of gamma rays, the highest-energy light in the universe.

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NASA names new gamma-ray constellations after Godzilla, Hulk. Pixabay

NASA has used certain characters from modern myths such as the “Hulk” and “Godzilla” to name its new set of 21 gamma-ray constellations constructed in celebration of its Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope’s 10th year of operations.

Fermi has mapped about 3,000 gamma-ray sources — 10 times the number known before its launch and comparable to the number of bright stars in the traditional constellations.

“For the first time ever, the number of known gamma-ray sources was comparable to the number of bright stars, so we thought a new set of constellations was a great way to illustrate the point,” NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s Elizabeth Ferrara who led the constellation project said in a statement.

Gamma-ray constellation
The background shows the gamma-ray sky as mapped by Fermi. The prominent reddish band is the plane of our own galaxy, the Milky Way; brighter colors indicate brighter gamma-ray sources. NASA

 

“Developing these unofficial constellations was a fun way to highlight a decade of Fermi’s accomplishments,” Julie McEnery, the Fermi project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said.

Comic book fans who know the backstory of Hulk, the big, green, angry alter ego of Bruce Banner, whose experiments with gamma rays went terribly wrong, could easily appreciate NASA’s pick in naming one of its constellations.

Gamma rays are the strongest form of light. They pack enough punch to convert into matter under the right circumstances, a transformation both Banner and the Hulk would certainly appreciate.

NASA’s choice of Godzilla constellation is linked to its trademark weapon “heat ray,” a fiery jet. This bears at least a passing resemblance to gamma-ray jets associated with black holes and neutron stars.

Gamma-ray constellation
NASA names new gamma-ray constellations after Godzilla, Hulk

 

Godzilla ranks as one of cinema’s most famous monsters and is among the most recognisable symbols of Japanese popular culture.

In the original 1954 movie, nuclear weapons tests disturb the creature’s deep ocean habitat, and it emerges from the sea to wreak havoc in Japan.

The 21 gamma-ray constellations also include famous landmarks — such as Sweden’s recovered warship, Vasa, the Washington Monument and Mount Fuji in Japan — in countries contributing to Fermi science.

Since 2008, Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) has been scanning the entire sky each day, mapping and measuring sources of gamma rays, the highest-energy light in the universe.

Also Read: NASA Plans For Science Payloads For Delivery To Moon

The emission may come from pulsars, nova outbursts, the debris of supernova explosions and giant gamma-ray bubbles located in our own galaxy, or supermassive black holes and gamma-ray bursts — the most powerful explosions in the cosmos — in others.

“Fermi is still going strong, and we are now preparing a new all-sky LAT catalog,” said Jean Ballet, a Fermi team member at the French Atomic Energy Commission in Saclay.

“This will add about 2,000 sources, many varying greatly in brightness, further enriching these constellations and enlivening the high-energy sky!” (IANS)