This artist’s rendition depicts NASA’s Mars 2020 rover studying a Mars rock outrcrop. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
In just a few years, NASA’s next Mars rover mission will be flying to the Red Planet.
At a glance, it looks a lot like its predecessor, the Curiosity Mars rover. But there’s no doubt it’s a souped-up science machine: It has seven new instruments, redesigned wheels and more autonomy. A drill will capture rock cores, while a caching system with a miniature robotic arm will seal up these samples. Then, they’ll be deposited on the Martian surface for possible pickup by a future mission.
This new hardware is being developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, which manages the mission for the agency. It includes the Mars 2020 mission’s cruise stage, which will fly the rover through space, and the descent stage, a rocket-powered “sky crane” that will lower it to the planet’s surface. Both of these stages have recently moved into JPL’s Spacecraft Assembly Facility.
Mars 2020 relies heavily on the system designs and spare hardware previously created for Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover, which landed in 2012. Roughly 85 per cent of the new rover’s mass is based on this ...