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NASA to Build New Mars 2020 Rover to Hunt for Life

Jul 17, 2016 10:49 PM EDT
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Curiosity Self-Portrait at 'Mojave' on Mount Sharp
After the Mars Curiosity Rover, NASA is ready to build the new Mars Rover 2020 that will set foot on the red planet in 2021.
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Getty Images)

Journey to Mars will get a rover upgrade and it's one of the most advanced machines to be designed for deep space explorations. After Mars Curiosity Rover, NASA will build a better life-hunting machine for the red planet the Mars 2020 Rover. It can collect samples and store them in tubes, it can also navigate better and identify danger zones and it is equipped with a microphone!

People can expect to hear Martian sounds when the 2020 rover set foot on the red planet. But aside from that, the new machine is equipped with instruments that could potentially help scientists find evidence of ancient Martian life.

What makes Mars 2020 rover different is the fact that it is designed to allow multi-mission approach. Sample materials from the red planet will be collected by the new rover in the course of its mission for future retrieval with the intention of bringing them back to Earth. Another difference between the old and new rover is that the latter has a new subsystem that can collect and prepare samples. The rover is equipped with tubes where samples will be stored and about 30 of them will be deposited at specific locations throughout the planet's surface for potential retrieval missions in the future. 

"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," Geoffrey Yoder, acting associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate said in a press release. "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," Yoder added.

NASA reveals that the 2020 rover will look like its older predecessor but will be carrying more advanced science instruments to enable a futuristic approach in the search for ancient Martian life, in a way that has never been done before.

The 2020 rover will conduct its first oxygen usability test for the Journey to Mars manned mission to the red planet set to launch in 2030. An instrument aboard the rover, called Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resources Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) is designed to generate oxygen from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the rover 2020 will get to try that as well.

A battalion of sensors will also make the search more effective. These sensors will monitor weather conditions, dust environment and even sub-surface geologic structures by using ground-penetrating radar. It'll also carry a SuperCam that can use lasers to vaporize rocks. But one of the most important upgrades for the rover is its smarter navigational system. "As it is descending, the spacecraft can tell whether it is headed for one of the unsafe zones and divert to safe ground nearby," Allen Chen, Mars 2020 entry, descent and landing lead said in a statement published by Space.com.

The rover was carefully planned and underwent a rigorous review process, but the agency is now ready to build the final design construction for the latest and innovative Mars rover that is set to launch in the summer of 2020 and is expected to arrive on Mars in February 2021.  

 

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