NASA’s Next Mars Rover

Gavin Webster, Staff Writer

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In two years, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration  (NASA) will be launching their next rover on Mars. Unlike the last rover, this new rover’s goal is being sent to Mars to find signs of ancient life.

 

The rover has three potential landing sites. Each was picked as they had the highest potentiality of harboring life billions of years ago. The three locations are Northern Syrtis (an ancient pertain on Mars’ surface), Jezero Crater (once home to an ancient lake), and Columbia Hills (potentially home to an ancient hot spring, explored earlier by NASA’s Spirit Rover).

 

The new rover has the same design of the previous rover, which was named Curiosity, but features seven new tools to help study the surface of Mars. The rover uses much of the previous hardware, which makes it a lot easier to execute this mission than the last.

 

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is in charge of this upcoming mission. The JPL is developing a new landing technology called Terrain Relative Navigation. When the rover is descending towards the surface it uses pre-existing maps and it’s on board cameras to compare the two to find a suitable landing site.

 

To achieve their goals of finding ancient life, the rover is packed with new instruments designed to study the ground. The rover is also helping prepare for humans to explore Mars with an experiment that hopes to create oxygen from Mars’ atmosphere. In addition to this, the rover is leaving it’s samples for humans or more advanced robots to pick up and analyze in the future.

 

The rover is launching off of an Atlas V 541 rocket. It will launch in 2020, and will then cruise towards Mars. It will take about a year for the rover to reach the planet. Once the rover is approaching Mars, all systems will be checked and started. After the approach, the spacecraft will begin its entry and descent into the martian atmosphere. After, the spacecraft will begin its landing procedure. The rover will be lowered from a sky crane hovering in the air, which will head back to Earth immediately after landing. Finally, the rover will deploy its instruments and start it’s 687 day surface mission.

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