The Mars 2020 rover is almost ready for its mission on Mars. The spacecraft will be launched this July with the mission to scour the red planet for signs of ancient life. NASA engineers took it for a test spin at the Cape Canaveral launch site, and the results look very promising.
NASA’s previous rover missions
The Mars 2020 rover has not been dubbed yet; however, we expect one soon enough. NASA’s latest rover is very similar to its last version, the Curiosity rover. Curiosity’s rover mission was to explore Gale Crater after its landing back in 2012.
The 96-mile-wide crater was one an ancient lake. Scientists believe that the stream system may have been able to sustain life; however, the red planet’s surface is dry until this day.
The Spirit and Opportunity rovers that landed on Mars in 2004 have proved that water was once present on the surface of Mars, but the question remaining is: What happened with the water? That is why NASA has sent Curiosity rover on Mars, which is to find out if the dried out ancient lake supported once microbial life. Until this day, the rover is still exploring the crater that scientists believe was partially formed by water.
Mars 2020 mission
Mars 2020 mission is to explore Jezero Crater, which is 3,760 miles away from the Gale Crater. The rover will look for actual signs of past life, called biosignatures, by analyzing samples of rocks and soil on the site of the ancient delta. It will also collect rock samples, which will be taken back to Earth for further thorough analysis.
Mars 2020 is essentially an advanced model of the Curiosity rover, adapted with a suite of seven specialized instruments that will explore the alien surface on its max. The new rover’s cost lift to around 1.9 billion dollars. This costly machine will have to survive the rough entry, descent, and landing on Mars to be able to fulfill its mission.
Mars 2020 vs. Curiosity rover
The unnamed rover is an upgraded version of Curiosity with added new capabilities. NASA has updated the Curiosity rover to reduce the cost. Compared to its predecessor, Mars 2020 weighs up to about 280 lbs (127 kilograms), which makes it heavier due to the different tools it carries, such as a more massive drill. A giant drill is a handy tool for extracting rock cores rather than just smashing them.
Mars 2020 will have 23 that will shoot mostly in color compared to the 17 cameras that Curiosity is equipped with. Mars 2020 will also be fitted with Mastcam-Z, which will record in high definition and be able to zoom in. On top of that, with the help of the new spacecraft, we will be able to hear what Mars sounds like as it will carry two microphones on its journey.
The microphones will record the Martian wind, listen as the rover zaps scientific targets with its onboard laser as well as its landing on Mars. Engineers made Mars 2020’s wheels more robust compared to Curiosity’s aluminum wheels, which were roughly beaten up Martian terrain.
“Extensive testing in JPL’s Mars Yard has shown these treads better withstand the pressure from sharp rocks but work just as well on sand,” NASA officials said in a news release.
NASA’s goal is to be able to send humans to Mars eventually; however, until that day comes, rovers will explore the Martian land. Their work and findings will help us prepare for the blessed day when the human foot will touch the red planet’s surface.
How are the rovers helping us learn?
Mars 2020 will carry spacesuit samples to determine how they degrade over time. It will also bring a subsurface radar instrument that could potentially be used to find buried water ice. Furthermore, it will also be equipped with an oxygen generator which will test technology that future astronauts may use to make their rocket fuel from the Martian atmosphere.