NASA’s 2020 Mars rover mission

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The next rover NASA will send to Mars in 2020 will carry seven carefully-selected instruments to conduct unprecedented science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet.

The Mars 2020 mission- importance

  • The Mars 2020 mission will be based on the design of the highly successful Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, which landed almost two years ago, and currently is operating on Mars.
  • The new rover will carry more sophisticated, upgraded hardware and new instruments to conduct geological assessments of the rover’s landing site, determine the potential habitability of the environment, and directly search for signs of ancient Martian life.
  • Scientists will use the Mars 2020 rover to identify and select a collection of rock and soil samples that will be stored for potential return to Earth by a future mission.
  • The Mars 2020 mission is responsive to the science objectives recommended by the National Research Council’s 2011 Planetary Science Decadal.
  • The Mars 2020 rover also will help advance our knowledge of how future human explorers could use natural resources available on the surface of the Red Planet.
  • An ability to live off the Martian land would transform future exploration of the planet.
  • Designers of future human expeditions can use this mission to understand the hazards posed by Martian dust and demonstrate technology to process carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to produce oxygen.
  • These experiments will help engineers learn how to use Martian resources to produce oxygen for human respiration and potentially for use as an oxidizer for rocket fuel.

The selected payload proposals

A 3-D printed model of Mastcam-Z, one of the science cameras on the Mars 2020 rover. Mastcam-Z will include a 3:1 zoom lens. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

* Mastcam-Z, an advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability with the ability to zoom. The instrument also will determine mineralogy of the Martian surface and assist with rover operations.

* SuperCam, an instrument that can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy. The instrument will also be able to detect the presence of organic compounds in rocks and regolith from a distance. This instrument also has a significant contribution from the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales,Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Plane’tologie (CNES/IRAP) France.

* Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer that will also contain an imager with high resolution to determine the fine scale elemental composition of Martian surface materials. PIXL will provide capabilities that permit more detailed detection and analysis of chemical elements than ever before.

* Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC), a spectrometer that will provide fine-scale imaging and uses an ultraviolet (UV) laser to determine fine-scale mineralogy and detect organic compounds. SHERLOC will be the first UV Raman spectrometer to fly to the surface of Mars and will provide complementary measurements with other instruments in the payload.
* The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), an exploration technology investigation that will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide.

* Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA), a set of sensors that will provide measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity and dust size and shape.

* The Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Exploration (RIMFAX), a ground-penetrating radar that will provide centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.

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