The POT presented this Friday on Mars 2020 Rover, the exploratory vehicle that will be used in the next mission to Mars that will depart in July next year and with which he hopes to discover if it is habitable for the human species.
Quadrangular in shape, 3 meters (10 feet) long and 2.7 meters (9 feet) wide, the scout will reach Martian soil in February 2021, specifically in the Jezero crater, where it will begin collecting minerals and soil samples that offer answers about the conditions of the planet millions of years ago.
During a presentation made this Friday to the media at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena (California) and where the vehicle is built, the US space agency technicians were proud that the Explorer will pass a test drive this month.
“The exam proved without any doubt that the Rover can operate at its own weight and demonstrated many of the autonomous navigation functions for the first time,” said Rich Rieber, an engineer responsible for vehicle mobility systems.
The test represented “an important milestone,” as the autonomous vehicle is designated to “make more driving decisions on its own than any previous explorer,” he added.
The Mars 2020 Rover, which at the beginning of next year will be sent to Cape Canaveral (Florida) for its launch on July 17, weighs 2,314 pounds, a mass that will not be such given that the gravity on Mars is 0.375 than that of the earth . That is, a person weighing 100 pounds on Earth would weigh only 38 pounds in the so-called “Red Planet”.
Very similar to Curiosity, the vehicle that arrived on Mars in August 2012, the Mars 2020 is equipped with wide vision navigation cameras, which can take color and high resolution images, as said Katie Stack Morgan, project scientist.
An additional computer is designed to be “the brain” that processes images, maps and allows the use of a more sophisticated auto navigation system than any other vehicle of its kind.
Its operating systems are so complex that it requires up to 300 specialists to supervise a vehicle that is expected to remain active collecting information for a Martian year, which is equivalent to 687 Earth days.
The Rover can travel an average of 200 meters (0.12 miles) each Martian day, which is slightly higher than Earth (equivalent to 24 hours and 39 minutes).
With this capacity, the vehicle will have a daily average of similar route to that of another predecessor of its own, the Opportunity, which reached a maximum of 214 meters (702 feet) during its mission.
With the so-called SuperCam, the Rover can obtain not only images but analysis of chemical composition and soil mineralogy with remote observation. It also has a technology that will seek to produce oxygen using the main element of the Martian atmosphere, carbon dioxide.
The rocks and soil samples collected by the explorer will be stored in tubes that will be deposited on the Martian surface for future missions to collect and bring to Earth.
“We know that ancient Mars was habitable. But we have not yet been able to prove that we have signs, real signs, of ancient life,” said Stack.
Mars is the fourth planet in its order because of the distance from the Sun and the second smallest in the Solar System after Mercury.
Its characteristic red color comes from the iron oxide that predominates on its surface. With a thin atmosphere of carbon dioxide, the planet has two small irregularly shaped satellites called Phobos and Deimos.