[meteorite-list] NASA's Next Mars Rover Progresses Toward 2020 Launch
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 22 Jul 2016 16:15:01 -0700 (PDT)
NASA's Next Mars Rover Progresses Toward 2020 Launch
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
July 15, 2016
After an extensive review process and passing a major development milestone,
NASA is ready to proceed with final design and construction of its next
Mars rover, currently targeted to launch in summer of 2020 and arrive
on the Red Planet in February 2021.
The Mars 2020 rover will investigate a region of Mars where the ancient
environment may have been favorable for microbial life, probing the Martian
rocks for evidence of past life. Throughout its investigation, it will
collect samples of soil and rock, and cache them on the surface for potential
return to Earth by a future mission.
"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," said Geoffrey Yoder, acting associate administrator of NASA's
Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "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
To reduce risk and provide cost savings, the 2020 rover will look much
like its six-wheeled, one-ton predecessor, Curiosity, but with an array
of new science instruments and enhancements to explore Mars as never before.
For example, the rover will conduct the first investigation into the usability
and availability of Martian resources, including oxygen, in preparation
for human missions.
Mars 2020 will carry an entirely new subsystem to collect and prepare
Martian rocks and soil samples that includes a coring drill on its arm
and a rack of sample tubes. About 30 of these sample tubes will be deposited
at select locations for return on a potential future sample-retrieval
mission. In laboratories on Earth, specimens from Mars could be analyzed
for evidence of past life on Mars and possible health hazards for future
Two science instruments mounted on the rover's robotic arm will be used
to search for signs of past life and determine where to collect samples
by analyzing the chemical, mineral, physical and organic characteristics
of Martian rocks. On the rover's mast, two science instruments will provide
high-resolution imaging and three types of spectroscopy for characterizing
rocks and soil from a distance, also helping to determine which rock targets
to explore up close.
A suite of sensors on the mast and deck will monitor weather conditions
and the dust environment, and a ground-penetrating radar will assess sub-surface
The Mars 2020 rover will use the same sky crane landing system as Curiosity,
but will have the ability to land in more challenging terrain with two
enhancements, making more rugged sites eligible as safe landing candidates.
"By adding what's known as range trigger, we can specify where we want
the parachute to open, not just at what velocity we want it to open,"
said Allen Chen, Mars 2020 entry, descent and landing lead at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "That shrinks our landing
area by nearly half."
Terrain-relative navigation on the new rover will use onboard analysis
of downward-looking images taken during descent, matching them to a map
that indicates zones designated unsafe for landing.
"As it is descending, the spacecraft can tell whether it is headed for
one of the unsafe zones and divert to safe ground nearby," said Chen.
"With this capability, we can now consider landing areas with unsafe zones
that previously would have disqualified the whole area. Also, we can land
closer to a specific science destination, for less driving after landing."
There will be a suite of cameras and a microphone that will capture the
never-before-seen or heard imagery and sounds of the entry, descent and
landing sequence. Information from the descent cameras and microphone
will provide valuable data to assist in planning future Mars landings,
and make for thrilling video.
"Nobody has ever seen what a parachute looks like as it is opening in
the Martian atmosphere," said JPL's David Gruel, assistant flight system
manager for the Mars 2020 mission. "So this will provide valuable engineering
Microphones have flown on previous missions to Mars, including NASA's
Phoenix Mars Lander in 2008, but never have actually been used on the
surface of the Red Planet.
"This will be a great opportunity for the public to hear the sounds of
Mars for the first time, and it could also provide useful engineering
information," said Mars 2020 Deputy Project Manager Matt Wallace of JPL.
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.
"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," said George Tahu, Mars 2020
program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "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."
The Mars 2020 mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program. Driven
by scientific discovery, the program currently includes two active rovers
and three NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars. NASA also plans to launch a stationary
Mars lander in 2018, InSight, to study the deep interior of Mars.
JPL manages the Mars 2020 project and the Mars Exploration Program for
NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Caltech in Pasadena
manages JPL for NASA.
For more information about Mars 2020, visit:
News Media Contact
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.w.webster at jpl.nasa.gov
Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
202-358-1726 / 202-358-1077
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov / laura.l.cantillo at nasa.gov
Received on Fri 22 Jul 2016 07:15:01 PM PDT