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NASA Mars 2020 Rover (build and mission thread)

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Draggendrop    5,747

I have started this thread to follow the build and decisions leading to the launch and sample return plans. Several key articles have surfaced and I will slowly populate this over the next few weeks. Feel free to drop data in as you wish.

 

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Mars 2020 Mission Overview

 

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The Mars 2020 rover mission is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the Red Planet. The Mars 2020 mission addresses high-priority science goals for Mars exploration, including key questions about the potential for life on Mars. The mission takes the next step by not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself. The Mars 2020 rover introduces a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside in a "cache" on the surface of Mars. A future mission could potentially return these samples  to Earth.  That would help scientists study the samples in laboratories with special room-sized equipment that would be too large to take to Mars. The mission also provides opportunities to gather knowledge and demonstrate technologies that address the challenges of future human expeditions to Mars. These include testing a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying other resources (such as subsurface water), improving landing techniques, and characterizing weather, dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect future astronauts living and working on Mars.


The mission is timed for a launch opportunity in July/August 2020 when Earth and Mars are in good positions relative to each other for landing on Mars. That is, it takes less power to travel to Mars at this time, compared to other times when Earth and Mars are in different positions in their orbits. To keep mission costs and risks as low as possible, the Mars 2020 design is based on NASA's successful Mars Science Laboratory mission architecture, including its Curiosity rover and proven landing system.

http://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/overview/

 

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Mars_Mars2020Rover_ScienceInstruments_PI

NASA

http://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/instruments/

 

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NASA’S MARS 2020
PROJECT

 

This is a clip from the Office of Inspector General, for the mission. The report is available as a pdf, 37 pages, at this link...

  https://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY17/IG-17-009.pdf

 

Key Concerns...

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The primary constraint and driver for Mars 2020 development is the Project’s planned July 2020 launch date. An optimal 20-day launch window for a trip from Earth to Mars occurs every 26 months. Missing the 2020 launch window would result in significant additional costs related to overhead, stand-by work force, replacement of degraded parts and components, and storage while waiting for the next launch opportunity.

 

Although Mars 2020 Project management has taken appropriate steps to address risks inherent in using heritage technology and several issues identified on the MSL mission, we identified several schedule-related issues that could indicate the Project is overly optimistic, including a condensed development schedule for five of the seven instruments, a shorter development timeframe than MSL, and less detailed Integrated Master Schedule for assigning timelines to all required tasks than MSL. The largest risk to the Mars 2020 schedule is the Project’s Sample and Caching Subsystem (Sampling System), which will collect core samples of Martian rocks and soil and place them on the planet’s surface for retrieval by a future robotic or human mission.

 

At Preliminary Design Review (PDR), three of the Sampling System’s critical technologies were below technology readiness level (TRL) 6, meaning the prototype had not yet demonstrated the capability to perform all the functions required. Projects are evaluated during PDR to ensure they meet all system requirements with acceptable risk WHY WE PERFORMED THIS AUDIT WHAT WE FOUND and within cost and schedule constraints. The immaturity of the critical technologies related to the Sampling System is concerning because, according to Mars 2020 Project managers, the Sampling System is the rover’s most complex new development component with delays likely to eat into the Project’s schedule reserve and, in the worst case scenario, could delay launch.

 

As of December 2016, the Project was tracking the risk that the Sampling System may not be ready for integration and testing – the period when a spacecraft is built, undergoes final testing, and is prepared for launch – in May 2019, as planned. The Mars 2020 Project also does not appear to be on track to meet the 90 percent metric for release of engineering drawings by the February 2017 Critical Design Review (when a project demonstrates its design is sufficiently mature to proceed to full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration, and testing). Engineering drawings communicate to manufacturers the details of a product’s design and are considered a good measure of a project’s stability. Failure to achieve this metric could affect the Project’s ability to ensure design stability, achieve technical objectives, and meet schedule and cost expectations.

 

In addition to the risks associated with the Sampling System and the engineering drawings, we also identified several other challenges confronting Mars 2020 Project managers, including late delivery of actuators (the components responsible for moving and controlling parts and instruments on the rover); foregoing an engineering model of the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) designed to assess the feasibility of producing oxygen on Mars as a cost savings measure; ensuring the rover does not exceed its designed mass limit of 1,050 kilograms; and addressing foreign partner funding issues that may affect their ability to timely deliver components to the Project

https://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY17/IG-17-009.pdf

 

more to follow...

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Draggendrop    5,747

Scientists narrow list of landing sites for NASA’s next Mars rover

 

080716_JezeroCrater_hr-br2-768x616.jpg

The delta inside Jezero Crater offers one of the best locations on Mars to look for the remains of ancient microbes, according to scientists. Jezero Crater received the most votes during a ranking of potential destinations for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover last week. This image combines information from two instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: the context camera and CRISM spectrometer. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/JHUAPL

 

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A rover NASA plans to launch to Mars in 2020 will likely explore one of three locations selected last week by a scientific advisory group, which picked candidate landing sites that were once homes to ancient lakes and hot springs.

 

“We’re looking for a site that’s ancient — around 4 or so billion years old — because that’s when we think Mars had water flowing and a more clement environment,” said Jack Mustard, a professor at Brown University who sits on the Mars landing site selection board. “We need to be able to characterize the habitability of that environment and look for preserved biosignatures. And in addition to the science on the ground, we need to find the right samples to return later.”

 

The six-wheeled robot, similar in appearance and capability to NASA’s Curiosity rover currently on Mars, will look for signs of past Martian life, assess the habitability of the environment, and measure the chemical, mineral and organic make-up of rocks, with an emphasis on hunting for biosignatures, the natural relics left behind by alien microbes.

 

Its other chief objectives will be to collect at least 30 test tube-sized core samples for possible retrieval and return to Earth on a future mission, and test a new device to generate oxygen from carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere, validating a tool future missions could employ to produce breathable air, water and rocket fuel.

 

Scientists met last week in California to narrow a list of eight potential destinations selected in 2015. Acting on the advice of the 172 researchers, NASA settled on three finalists Saturday, setting the stage for a final decision by top agency managers in 2018 or 2019.

 

The robotic mission, officially named Mars 2020 for now, will launch in July 2020 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket and reach the red planet in February 2021, descending through the atmosphere with the assistance of a heat shield, parachutes and braking rockets before cables unreel to place the rover on the surface.

 

The “sky crane” descent system is based on the technology demonstrated with the landing of Curiosity on Mars in August 2012.

 

mars2020-20170211-16-678x381.jpg

Three potential landing sites for NASA’s next Mars rover. Credit: NASA

 

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The shortlist of landing sites includes the Columbia Hills, a range of heights in 4-billion-year-old Gusev Crater where NASA’s Spirit rover landed in January 2004.

 

Spirit found evidence that the region had a watery past after climbing from its touchdown point in the basin of Gusev Crater into rounded highlands named for the astronauts who died aboard the shuttle Columbia.

 

The rover drove 4.8 miles (7.7 kilometers) during its mission, and kept going after one of its wheels stopped turning. The inoperable right-front wheel dragged up white soil — the rover’s spectrometer determined the material was nearly pure silica — and scientists linked the unexpected discovery with the presence of ancient hot springs and steam vents.

 

Such an environment could have hosted microbes billions of years ago, making it an ideal location to land the Mars 2020 rover, scientists said.

Spirit reached a feature named “Home Plate,” the remnant of a hydrovolcanic explosion involving three key ingredients for life: heat, energy and water. The Spirit rover, which functioned 25 times longer than its 90-day design life, also found outcrops of carbonate in the Columbia Hills, deposits which scientists say were emplaced during a wetter period of Martian history.

 

Data gathered by Spirit also indicate Gusev Crater could have periodically flooded and made shallow lakes.

 

Proponents of the Columbia Hills site also tout the possibility of sending the Mars 2020 rover to inspect Spirit where it bogged down in a sand pit in 2009 and likely froze its internal electronics during a frigid Martian winter. NASA last heard from Spirit in March 2010 and gave up on recovering the mission in May 2011.

more at the link...

http://spaceflightnow.com/2017/02/13/scientists-narrow-list-of-landing-sites-for-nasas-next-mars-rover/

 

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PIA14839-full2.jpg

NASA/JPL

 

:)

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Draggendrop    5,747

FINAL THREE LANDING SITES

 

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At the third landing site workshop for the Mars 2020 mission on Feb. 8-10, 2017, a team of scientists narrowed down the list of potential places where NASA's Mars 2020 rover may land.

 

COLUMBIA HILLS, GUSEV CRATER: HOME TO MARS ROVER SPIRIT

Mars_Spirit_Rover_Gusev_Crater_Longhorn_

Mineral springs once burbled up from the rocks of Columbia Hills. The discovery that hot springs flowed here was a major achievement of the Mars Exploration Rover, Spirit. The rover's discovery was an especially welcome surprise because Spirit had not found signs of water anywhere else in the100-mile (160-kilometer)-wide Gusev Crater. After the rover stopped working in 2010, studies of its older data records showed evidence that past floods that may have formed a shallow lake in Gusev.

 

 

 

JEZERO CRATER: WET AND DRY AND WET AGAIN

080716_JezeroCrater_hr-fi.jpg

Jezero Crater tells a story of the on-again, off-again nature of the wet past of Mars. Water filled and drained away from the crater on at least two occasions. More than 3.5 billion years ago, river channels spilled over the crater wall and created a lake. Scientists see evidence that water carried clay minerals from the surrounding area into the crater after the lake dried up. Conceivably, microbial life could have lived in Jezero during one or more of these wet times. If so, signs of their remains might be found in lakebed sediments.

 

 

 

NE SYRTIS: ONCE WARM, AND WET

MRO_HIRISE_Syrtis_Major_ESP_015942_1980-

Volcanic activity once warmed NE Syrtis. Underground heat sources made hot springs flow and surface ice melt. Microbes could have flourished here in liquid water that was in contact with minerals. The layered terrain of NE Syrtis holds a rich record of the interactions that occurred between water and minerals over successive periods of early Mars history.

 

http://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/timeline/prelaunch/landing-site-selection/

 

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Jezero crater most popular scientific target on Mars for NASA’s 2020 rover

 

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Update: Following closed afternoon meetings at the conclusion of a scientific advisory session on 10 February, NASA announced the official final 3 sites under consideration for the Mars 2020 rover. As expected, Jezero and Northeast Syrtis were put forward. But rather than forwarding along Eberswalde or Mawrth Vallis, two other top candidates, the 2020 rover team stated that Columbia Hills, a site previously explored by the Spirit rover, would be considered as the third option.

 

021017_Insider_MarsSites.jpg?itok=RV8G70

Credits: (Graphic) Val Altounian/Science; (Data) NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

 

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The $2 billion Mars 2020 rover has the ultimate goal of drilling some 30 pencilwide rock cores that would then be cached on the planet’s surface and, ultimately, returned to Earth for analysis. The means of return are not yet determined, but would require subsequent missions.

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/02/jezero-crater-most-popular-scientific-target-mars-nasa-s-2020-rover

 

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anthdci    205

obviously far to early to think about but would this ideal for a falcon heavy or will be it be too heavy for that?

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+John.    1,386
4 minutes ago, anthdci said:

obviously far to early to think about but would this ideal for a falcon heavy or will be it be too heavy for that?

Napkin math says Falcon Heavy could transport a few of these things to Mars. The only issue would be the fairing space.

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Draggendrop    5,747

NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover: Stepping Stone to What?

 

Long article but it has a few bits of data...

 

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MONROVIA, Calif .— NASA’s next major interplanetary mission is the Mars 2020 rover. The robot explorer is expected to touch down on the Red Planet in February 2021, but there is one key detail that remains to be decided: Where exactly it will land.


Wherever the rover finds itself in 2021 will likely shape the future of Mars exploration for decades to come. Besides poking around its landing site for signs of past habitability and Martian life, the rover will also select and cache samples for an eventual return to Earth at some yet-to-be-determined date. Once gathered, the precious samples will unquestionably beckon us back to Mars, even if no one yet knows what secrets they shall hold or whether humans or robots will retrieve them.


Twice before, mission planners have gathered to winnow their overlong list of candidate landing sites, each time emerging with a smaller number of high-priority places to go. From February 8 to 10 some 250 planetary scientists and spacecraft engineers gathered here for their third confab—the penultimate meeting before Mars 2020’s final landing site is chosen. A fourth workshop to ruminate further about the remaining candidate sites is slated for early to mid-2018, after which NASA’s leadership will pick the rover’s final destination.

 

PHOTO%202%20ROVER%20OUTSTRETCHED%20ARM.j

Computer artwork of Mars 2020 rover with outstretched robotic arm.
Credit: NASA/JPL-–CALTECH

 

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A SMARTER “SEVEN MINUTES OF TERROR”

 

From an engineering perspective, the Mars 2020 mission is very much a mirror image of the Curiosity robot that has been busily working on the planet since August 2012. Getting this next rover down and dirty on Mars utilizes the same entry, descent and landing approach—a nail-biting plunge through the atmosphere cheerily known as “seven minutes of terror” that culminates with a “sky crane” firing retro-rockets and hovering over the surface as it carefully lowers the rover onto Mars. This time, however, the Mars 2020 hardware will possess new systems to attain a more precise landing spot and to make last-minute maneuvers to avoid hazardous boulders, slopes and sand traps.

 

Moreover, once grounded the rover will operate with more autonomy compared with Curiosity, thanks to a batch of software upgrades. Jennifer Trosper, system engineering lead for the rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), says those improvements can assure no dillydallying on Mars.

Enhanced navigation across all kinds of complex terrain means Mars 2020 can get its primary scientific chores done far more efficiently and quickly than Curiosity ever could, Trosper says. Indeed, the rover must perform its tasks significantly better relative to Curiosity to achieve its mission objectives, she says.

 

 

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STASH A CACHE OF MARS

 

A keystone goal for the nuclear-powered Mars 2020 rover will be to rigorously document, then gather and stash an “astrobiologically relevant” cache of Martian samples for future transport back to Earth. “Mars 2020 is not a life- detection mission, but I think targeted to the right place we can make great strides toward finally answering the question about life on Mars. It gets us down the road” to find out, says John Grant, a geologist at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s who co-chairs of the Mars 2020 Landing Site Steering Committee.


“On the science side, it’s all building towards Mars sample return,” says David Beaty, chief scientist for the Mars Exploration Directorate at JPL, who is also co-leader of the Returned Sample Science Board set up by NASA as an independent diverse group of scientists. He views the Mars 2020 rover as a “huge step forward” in flinging to Earth bits and pieces of Martian manna. All in all, the robot is to stuff into sample-collection tubes on the order of one half kilogram of Mars. Once those Mars-loaded tubes are back here on terra firma, the specimens would undergo analysis through the miracle of modern instrumentation. “We can basically throw the book at the samples,” Beaty says. “I see Mars samples as a major divergence in our planning for the future. Either the samples have life in them or they don’t. If they have life in them, then the Mars program takes off in a totally different direction.”

 

 

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PLANS AND HOPES

 

There is a problem, however. Missing in action is a firm NASA plan for what comes after Mars 2020. In fact, the rover is currently NASA’s last funded mission to the Red Planet. Arvidson and many other Mars scientists are optimistic that bots will bring home the astrobiological bacon as soon as the 2030s—but how, when and at what cost those specimens will actually return to Earth remains anybody’s guess. “It’s a money question, not a science question,” Beaty says. “And the money comes from Congress and the Office of Management and Budget, with priorities set by the White House.”

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nasas-mars-2020-rover-stepping-stone-to-what/

 

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NASA Narrows Down Mars 2020 Rover Landing Sites

 

MSL_4sites_globe-extra.jpg

NASA's past landing sites on Mars (yellow) versus the three proposed landing sites (red) for the Mars 2020 rover. 
NASA / JPL, with modifications by Dave Dickinson

 

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on the Hunt

 

Analysis of the candidate sites comes courtesy of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), in orbit around the Red Planet since 2006. With its 0.5-meter aperture HiRISE camera, MRO gives NASA the equivalent of spy satellite resolution from low orbit. The spacecraft has been circling Mars long enough to see changes in sites over the past decade.

 

“Whether it is looking at the surface, the subsurface, or the atmosphere of the planet, MRO has viewed Mars from orbit with unprecedented spatial resolution, and that produces huge volumes of data,” says MRO project scientist Rich Zurek (JPL-MRO) in a recent press release. “These data are a treasure trove for the whole Mars scientific community to study as we seek to answer a broad range of questions about the evolving habitability, geology, and climate of Mars.”

 

MRO will have passed along an amazing 300 terabits of information this year, more than every other interplanetary mission combined. MRO has mapped 99% of the surface of Mars down to a resolution of 25 meters or better, including high-resolution swaths over selected sites down to better than a meter resolution. Data collected from MRO will also be incorporated during eventual site selection for crewed missions to Mars in the 2030s.

 

Mars 2020 versus Curiosity

 

The Mars 2020 rover resembles Curiosity on the exterior, and like its younger sibling, the Mars 2020 rover will land via sky crane and sport a plutonium-fueled nuclear Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG). However, the Mars 2020 rover will use a range trigger during the Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) phase, which will allow the lander to decide when to open the parachute, reducing the size of the landing ellipse.

 

Also unlike Curiosity, the Mars 2020 science packages will directly target the question of whether life ever existed on Mars. Moreover, Mars 2020 rover will carry 40 empty tubes for rock cores, with the aim of collecting a cache of surface material for a possible automated sample return mission in the future.

 

"We can choose a final landing site as late as one year prior to launch," says Williford. "But our goal is to have site selection finalized by two years prior to launch."

 

Mars 2020 will launch on an Atlas 5 rocket in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral. It should arrive at Mars in early 2021.

 

If all goes as planned, humanity will really start to invade Mars in the next two launch windows. Only one mission, the European Space Agency (ESA) ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and ill-fated Schiaparelli Lander made the trip to Mars in 2016. With Mars launch windows coming around about every 26 months, the next one will arrive in 2018. Watch for NASA's Mars InSight and possibly SpaceX's Red Dragon lander to make the trip then. All four potential landing sites for Mars InSight are within a landing ellipse in Elysium Planitia.

 

The 2020 mission roll call is far larger, and should include the Mars 2020 rover (it'll have a proper name like every other NASA rover by then), the United Arab Emirates' Mars Hope orbiter, a possible rover fielded by China, ESA's ExoMars rover, and India's second Mars mission.

 

Get ready as Mars exploration kicks into high gear.

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/nasa-narrows-down-mars-2020-rover-landing-sites/

 

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Three sites where NASA might retrieve its first Mars rock

 

MRO-HIRISE-Mars-Jezero-Crater-Mars2020-P

Jezero crater, once home to an ancient lake, could yield the first Martian rock samples to reach Earth. NASA/JPL-CALTECH/UNIV. ARIZONA

 

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The future of NASA's Mars programme is taking shape. The agency has narrowed — from eight to three — the list of potential landing sites for its 2020 rover, which will scoop up Martian rock and soil in the hope of one day returning them to Earth.

 

NASA shortlisted the sites on 10 February, at the end of a three-day workshop in Monrovia, California to hash out where the spacecraft will go. The final decision, due a year or two before launch, will be one of the most momentous in Mars exploration. The rocks that the Mars 2020 rover collects are likely to dictate the scientific questions that will be tested for decades to come.

 

“What if this is the only set of samples that we ever return from a known place on Mars?” asks Briony Horgan, a planetary scientist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Until now, the only Mars rocks that researchers have studied are meteorites, which reach Earth stripped of their original geological context.

 

The three landing sites still in contention include Jezero crater, which was once home to an ancient Martian lake and which could preserve the remains of microbial life, if that ever existed on Mars. “You've got a large river bringing water and sediment into a very large lake, comparable to Lake Tahoe,” says Timothy Goudge, a planetary scientist at the University of Texas at Austin. Jezero scored highest on a community vote of scientists attending the workshop.

 

Other possible targets are Northeast Syrtis, where hot waters once circulated through the crust and could have supported life, and Columbia Hills, the area explored for years by NASA's Spirit rover.

 

 

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Left behind


That requirement, along with other challenges, knocked Holden crater off the list of possibilities. The rover would have had to drive large distances around that site to collect different types of geological samples. And as the southernmost location on the longlist, it would have exposed sample tubes to strong sunlight and high temperatures, which could have compromised future tests.

 

Also out of the running is Eberswalde crater, which scored third in the community vote but is also far south and gets quite hot, Golombek says. Jezero crater offers the same sort of ancient-lake environment without the risk posed by high temperatures, he argues. And the community’s fourth choice of Mawrth Vallis, although rich in clays, is not as clearly connected to a possibly once habitable environment, he says.

 

Nili Fossae, where an orbiting spacecraft had seen methane rising from Mars, and Southwest Melas, another ancient lake, also fell off the list. Neither scored as highly as the top candidates for the potential for science return.

 

NASA has neither designed nor budgeted for how to get the Martian rock samples back to Earth. So the 2020 rover will drill and collect the samples, then lay them down on the Martian surface for an as-yet-unplanned mission to retrieve.

 

The European Space Agency is launching its own Mars rover in 2020, to Oxia Planum. China also plans to send one that year, when the alignments of Earth and Mars are favourable for launching missions between the two.

http://www.nature.com/news/three-sites-where-nasa-might-retrieve-its-first-mars-rock-1.21470

 

Ride along with Mars2020 rover

video is 1:51 min.

 

 

 

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Unobscured Vision    2,642

I've got my hopes up for the Jezero region, on or near where the river let out to form the delta. :yes: 

 

I'd certainly put it at the top of the list for a manned mission. It's a Geologists' "gold mine", and offers good climate to boot. Nice and warm there. Plus there are cliffsides as well as soft regolith nearby to dig into when it's needed to satisfy the NASA people who are dead-set on being able to have the below-ground Solar Flare Shelter. That area is prime real estate, to my thinking. Only worrying constraint is whether the regolith is too soft to support a heavy lander and the habs there, since it is a riverbank and an old flood plain. Don't need our gear sinking into the dust or tipping over.

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Unobscured Vision    2,642

My own contrasted images of the Jezero Crater Delta, and the settings used in Mars Trek. Elevation -9000 -ish, Nil Fossae Region. Right on the edge of Isidis Planitia, where they found that big subsurface ice deposit -- enough to fill Lake Superior 1.5+ times over. Yes, there. Bout 250-ish kilometers southwest of that. 

 

It's interesting, but I'm noticing that Martian soil has a particular look to it when it is "ice-laden" compared to when it's "dry". I can't be the only one seeing it. The ice-laden soil tends to be darker to some degree depending on how much moisture is there. That might be an indicator of where to look for ice/water, it might not. Worth taking a look, maybe? :yes: 

 

Jezero-Overview.jpgJezero-Delta-2.jpg

Jezero-Delta-1.jpg

(I've got a #4 image but the 2mb file limit is preventing me from posting it just now ... but it's the northern side of the delta. QUITE interesting. :yes:)

 

Please enjoy these. I know I did when I took the screen shots from Mars Trek. Quite a piece of handiwork, bringing out the contrast like this if I say so myself. I'll be happy to share the settings, it wasn't that difficult but it did involve some trial and error like with the Brown Dwarf I imaged last year using Keck. :) 

 

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Unobscured Vision    2,642

Just about 24 hours, let's see if it'll let me share them. ;) 

 

Jezero-Delta-3.jpgJezero-Settings.jpg

 

And there we go. :yes: Not much to it, but as I said some trial and error involved to really bring the contrast out.

 

And take a gander at the dune action! As the late Steve Irwin would say ... "what beauties!" :D The images really are worth zooming in on ... I took care to make sure there was as little loss as possible when converting to .jpeg. I hate lossy images.

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Draggendrop    5,747

generic article...bits and bytes though...

 

Should NASA's Next Mars Rover Tread New Ground?

 

photo-1-rice-2020-encounter.jpg?interpol

Composite artwork depicts meeting of Mars machinery: The Mars 2020 rover wheels up to the Spirit rover in the Columbia Hills.
Credit: James Rice/Joel Hagen/NASA

 

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The search for Martian life may take NASA's next Red Planet rover to a site already explored by one of its smaller cousins.

 

Columbia Hills/Gusev Crater, which NASA's now-dead Spirit rover studied intensively from 2004 through 2009, is one of three finalist landing sites for the agency's next Mars rover, a life-hunting machine scheduled to launch in 2020.

 

Spirit found evidence of an ancient hydrothermal system, meaning Columbia Hills/Gusev once hosted liquid water and an energy source — two of the key ingredients necessary for life as we know it. [NASA's 2020 Mars Rover in Pictures]

 

"Because NASA's stated objective for the 2020 rover is to seek signs of past microbial life, the fact that we can point to possible signs of microbial life among rocks in the Columbia Hills is a major reason to go back," said Steven Ruff, associate research professor at Arizona State University's Mars Space Flight Facility in Tempe, Arizona.

 

photo-2-mars-2020-sky-crane.jpg?14883376

NASA's Mars 2020 rover mission will use the "sky crane" system that landed the agency's Curiosity rover on the Red Planet in August 2012.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

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"We know from a range of observations by Spirit that the rocks it found next to Home Plate, the ones composed of opaline silica, most likely formed in hot-spring discharge channels," Ruff told Space.com. "The remarkable similarities in their shapes, textures and mineralogy with silica rocks we found among hot springs at El Tatio, Chile, make the case."

 

Ruff pointed to samples picked up at El Tatio as being formed from a combination of biology and geology, so the possibility exists that Martian silica rocks formed the same way.  

 

"We should go find out," Ruff said, referring to Mars 2020's destination.

 

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Another Mars 2020 landing-site workshop will be held next year. That get-together will further hone down the sites, but the final call falls to NASA headquarters.

 

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Sky crane, part 2

 

For the most part, the 2020 rover will follow the landing playbook used by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, which touched down inside Gale Crater in August 2012 and is currently exploring the foothills of the 3.4-mile-high (5.5 kilometers) Mount Sharp.

 

The 2020 Mars rover will experience the same "7 minutes of terror" entry, descent and landing scenario, which ends with the use of a rocket-powered sky crane lowering the rover onto Mars terrain.

 

7 Minutes of Terror: Curiosity Rover's Risky Mars Landing | Video

video is 5:06 in.

 

 

 

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But the new rover features some updates that will make its landing special, said Allen Chen, entry, descent and landing lead for Mars 2020 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

 

Two new techniques — Range Trigger and Terrain-Relative Navigation —make it feasible to shrink the rover's landing ellipse considerably, compared to previous Mars landers, Chen said. Those new abilities allow the rover to "get close to the fun stuff" that scientists are hungry for, Chen told Space.com.
 
Terrain-Relative Navigation will allow the 2020 rover to avoid rough terrain, sharp slopes and other perils, while Chen said that Range Trigger permits precise timing of parachute release. Onboard software will autodecide if the rover's parachute is to be deployed early or late, given how close the robot might be to its desired touchdown target, Chen said..


Mars 2020 and Curiosity also have different mission goals. Curiosity is tasked primarily with determining whether or not Gale Crater has ever been capable of supporting microbial life — a question the rover answered in the affirmative early in its mission. But Mars 2020 will actually hunt for signs of past life.

 

The 2020 rover will drill and cache the most compelling astrobiological samples at the selected site for later pickup and return to Earth. Once transported back to our home world, specimens would be subject to the best scientific scrutiny that researchers can muster, given a bevy of powerful and innovative lab tools.

 

photo-7-mars-2020.jpg?1488338232?interpo

Artwork depicts NASA's Mars 2020 rover, geared to hunt and cache select samples that may provide clues to past and present life on the Red Planet for eventual return to Earth.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Quote

Mars getting busy

 

The 2020 rover isn't the only craft being prepped for a trip to Mars in the near future.

 

NASA aims to launch a lander called InSight next year, to investigate the Red Planet's interior structure. The life-hunting ExoMars rover, a joint effort of the European Space Agency and Russia's space agency, is scheduled to lift off in 2021, and China plans to launch its own Mars rover in that same general time frame.

 

And then there's SpaceX. Elon Musk's company intends to launch its uncrewed Dragon capsule toward Mars in 2020, with follow-up missions occurring every two years or so thereafter. Crewed missions aboard the company's Interplanetary Transport System could begin sometime in the 2020s as well. 

http://www.space.com/35866-nasa-mars-2020-rover-landing-site.html

 

:)

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Jim K    12,258
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Mars Helicopter to Fly on NASA’s Next Red Planet Rover Mission

 

The Mars Helicopter, a small, autonomous rotorcraft, will travel with the agency’s Mars 2020 rover mission, currently scheduled to launch in July 2020, to demonstrate the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet. 

 

“NASA has a proud history of firsts,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The idea of a helicopter flying the skies of another planet is thrilling. The Mars Helicopter holds much promise for our future science, discovery, and exploration missions to Mars.”

 

U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Texas echoed Bridenstine’s appreciation of the impact of American firsts on the future of exploration and discovery.

 

“It’s fitting that the United States of America is the first nation in history to fly the first heavier-than-air craft on another world,” Culberson said. “This exciting and visionary achievement will inspire young people all over the United States to become scientists and engineers, paving the way for even greater discoveries in the future.”

 

Started in August 2013 as a technology development project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Mars Helicopter had to prove that big things could come in small packages. The result of the team’s four years of design, testing and redesign weighs in at little under four pounds (1.8 kilograms). Its fuselage is about the size of a softball, and its twin, counter-rotating blades will bite into the thin Martian atmosphere at almost 3,000 rpm – about 10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth.

 

“Exploring the Red Planet with NASA’s Mars Helicopter exemplifies a successful marriage of science and technology innovation and is a unique opportunity to advance Mars exploration for the future,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “After the Wright Brothers proved 117 years ago that powered, sustained, and controlled flight was possible here on Earth, another group of American pioneers may prove the same can be done on another world.”

 

The helicopter also contains built-in capabilities needed for operation at Mars, including solar cells to charge its lithium-ion batteries, and a heating mechanism to keep it warm through the cold Martian nights. But before the helicopter can fly at Mars it has to get there. It will do so attached to the belly pan of the Mars 2020 rover.

 

“The altitude record for a helicopter flying here on Earth is about 40,000 feet. The atmosphere of Mars is only one percent that of Earth, so when our helicopter is on the Martian surface, it’s already at the Earth equivalent of 100,000 feet up,” said Mimi Aung, Mars Helicopter project manager at JPL. “To make it fly at that low atmospheric density, we had to scrutinize everything, make it as light as possible while being as strong and as powerful as it can possibly be.”

 

Once the rover is on the planet’s surface, a suitable location will be found to deploy the helicopter down from the vehicle and place it onto the ground. The rover then will be driven away from the helicopter to a safe distance from which it will relay commands. After its batteries are charged and a myriad of tests are performed, controllers on Earth will command the Mars Helicopter to take its first autonomous flight into history.

 

“We don’t have a pilot and Earth will be several light minutes away, so there is no way to joystick this mission in real time,” said Aung. “Instead, we have an autonomous capability that will be able to receive and interpret commands from the ground, and then fly the mission on its own.”

 

The full 30-day flight test campaign will include up to five flights of incrementally farther flight distances, up to a few hundred meters, and longer durations as long as 90 seconds, over a period. On its first flight, the helicopter will make a short vertical climb to 10 feet (3 meters), where it will hover for about 30 seconds.

 

As a technology demonstration, the Mars Helicopter is considered a high-risk, high-reward project. If it does not work, the Mars 2020 mission will not be impacted. If it does work, helicopters may have a real future as low-flying scouts and aerial vehicles to access locations not reachable by ground travel.

 

“The ability to see clearly what lies beyond the next hill is crucial for future explorers,” said Zurbuchen. “We already have great views of Mars from the surface as well as from orbit. With the added dimension of a bird’s-eye view from a ‘marscopter,’ we can only imagine what future missions will achieve.”

 

Mars 2020 will launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and is expected to reach Mars in February 2021.

NASA Press Release

 

 

From March 2018

Quote

Next NASA Mars Rover Reaches Key Manufacturing Milestone

 

NASA's Mars 2020 mission has begun the assembly, test and launch operations (ATLO) phase of its development, on track for a July 2020 launch to Mars.

 

The first planned ATLO activities will involve electrical integration of flight hardware into the mission’s descent stage. The Mars 2020 rover, as well as its cruise stage, aeroshell and descent stage -- a rocket-powered "sky crane" that will lower the rover to the planet's surface -- will undergo final assembly at the Spacecraft Assembly Facility High Bay 1 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

 

"No better place in the world to assemble NASA’s next Mars rover than JPL’s High Bay 1,” said Mars 2020 Project Manager John McNamee at JPL. "On the floor you’ll see the components of our spacecraft taking shape -- put together by people who are the best in the world at what they do. And on the wall behind them you will see all the logos of the historic missions of exploration that have also been assembled in High Bay 1 in the past.”

 

Those missions include the Ranger missions to the moon (the first time America reached out and touched the moon), the Mariner mission to Venus (the first spacecraft to successfully encounter another planet) and Mars rovers.

 

Over the next year-and-a-half, engineers and technicians will add subsystems such as avionics, power, telecommunications, mechanisms, thermal systems and navigation systems onto the spacecraft. The propulsion systems were installed earlier this year on the cruise and descent stage main structures.

 

“Parts of this mission are coming from the other side of the world, and some are coming from just ‘down the street’ in Pasadena, and some are coming from literally down the street — a couple of buildings away,” said David Gruel, ATLO Manager for Mars 2020 at JPL. “Right now we are working the descent stage, and by fall we expect to be working on the rover itself.”

 

Mars 2020 is targeted for launch in July 2020 aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rover will conduct geological assessments of its landing site on Mars, determine the habitability of the environment, search for signs of ancient Martian life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers. Additionally, scientists will use the instruments aboard the rover to identify and collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in sealed tubes, and leave them on the surface of Mars for potential return to Earth by a future mission to the Red Planet.

pia22342-16.thumb.jpg.4f6f3eba3bab53061267a827de111db8.jpg

NASA

 

 

 

Quote

A chunk of Mars will soon be returning home.

 

Capture.thumb.JPG.0ae663da013d3f88dfe87fe6a0cca330.JPG

 

A piece of a meteorite called Sayh al Uhaymir 008 (SaU008) will be carried on board NASA's Mars 2020 rover mission, now being built at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. This chunk will serve as target practice for a high-precision laser on the rover's arm.

 

Mars 2020's goal is ambitious: collect samples from the Red Planet's surface that a future mission could potentially return to Earth. One of the rover's many tools will be a laser designed to illuminate rock features as fine as a human hair.

 

That level of precision requires a calibration target to help tweak the laser's settings. Previous NASA rovers have included calibration targets as well. Depending on the instrument, the target material can include things like rock, metal or glass, and can often look like a painter's palette.

/snip

NASA

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Draggendrop    5,747

NASA Mars 2020 Rover Landing Site Announcement Coming Monday! How to Listen Live.

 

Quote

NASA is prepared to announce which of four final contenders it has selected as the landing site for its Mars 2020 rover, which is due to touch down on the Red Planet in 2021, and we'll all find out more on Monday (Nov. 19).

 

The agency will announce its choice in a news teleconference Monday at 12 p.m. EST (1700 GMT). Audio and visuals from the announcement will be available to watch here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV, or directly at the agency's website.

 

The announcement follows a workshop held in October where hundreds of scientists listened to presentations about the merits and concerns for each of the candidate sites. At the end of that meeting, attendees voted on their preference, and the aggregate results of that vote were sent as a recommendation for NASA to consider in its final decision-making process.

 

It's a weighty decision, since the Mars 2020 rover has a host of intriguing scientific goals to tackle. The mission is designed to search for evidence of possible ancient life on Mars and to gather and store samples that a future NASA mission could one day bring back to terrestrial laboratories.

 

1881698573_Mars2020sites.thumb.jpg.7c0416e1ce101414840bac3a00418ce8.jpg

The four landing sites now under consideration for NASA's 2020 Mars rover.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Quote

But which site will win? Tune in Monday to find out!

https://www.space.com/42472-nasa-mars-2020-landing-site-announcement-webcast.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

 

NasaTV

https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/#public

 

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Unobscured Vision    2,642

PLEASE be Jezero Crater ... (Y) 

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Draggendrop    5,747

That would be a good choice...prior river delta...

 

If they don't...SpaceX Xnauts will handle it in person. 😎

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Jim K    12,258
21 hours ago, Unobscured Vision said:

PLEASE be Jezero Crater ... (Y) 

You got it.

 

 

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DocM    15,934

Jezero is also on SpaceX's short list.

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Unobscured Vision    2,642

YES!! :punk:

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Beittil    539

-snip- wrong mission 😛

Edited by Beittil

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Draggendrop    5,747
1 hour ago, Beittil said:

-snip- wrong mission 😛

It's okay...I'll wait for the next Oatmeal....in the meantime...

 

 

 

 

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Draggendrop    5,747

 

If it's not siesmic sensors, it's Supercams or sharks with lasers...

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Jim K    12,258
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NASA's Mars Helicopter Completes Flight Tests

 

Since the Wright brothers first took to the skies of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, Dec. 17, 1903, first flights have been important milestones in the life of any vehicle designed for air travel. After all, it's one thing to design an aircraft and make it fly on paper — or computer. It is quite another to put all the pieces together and watch them get off the ground.

 

In late January 2019, all the pieces making up the flight model (actual vehicle going to the Red Planet) of NASA's Mars Helicopter were put to the test.

 

Weighing in at no more than 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms), the helicopter is a technology demonstration project currently going through the rigorous verification process certifying it for Mars.

 

The majority of the testing the flight model is going through had to do with demonstrating how it can operate on Mars, including how it performs at Mars-like temperatures. Can the helicopter survive — and function — in cold temperatures, including nights with temperatures as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius)?

 

All this testing is geared towards February 2021, when the helicopter will reach the surface of the Red Planet, firmly nestled under the belly of the Mars 2020 rover. A few months later, it will be deployed and test flights (up to 90 seconds long) will begin — the first from the surface of another world.

 

"Gearing up for that first flight on Mars, we have logged over 75 minutes of flying time with an engineering model, which was a close approximation of our helicopter," said MiMi Aung, project manager for the Mars Helicopter at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "But this recent test of the flight model was the real deal. This is our helicopter bound for Mars. We needed to see that it worked as advertised."

 

While flying helicopters is commonplace here on Earth, flying hundreds of millions of miles (kilometers) away in the thin Martian atmosphere is something else entirely. And creating the right conditions for testing here on Earth presents its own set of challenges.

 

/snip

 

NASA

 

 

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