NASA plans massive Mars rover


December 20, 2004
Earth, Energy & Environment, Space, Uncategorized

Building on the success of the two wheeled geologists that arrived at Mars in January, 2004, NASA has begun planning a new rover mission to the red planet ? the Mars Science Laboratory. Planned to be twice as long and three times as heavy as the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Science Laboratory would collect martian soil samples and rock cores and analyze them for environmental conditions and organic compounds that could have supported microbial life now or in the past.

From NASA:
NASA plans massive Mars rover

Building on the success of the two wheeled geologists that arrived at Mars in January, 2004, NASA has begun planning a new rover mission to the red planet ? the Mars Science Laboratory. Planned to be twice as long and three times as heavy as the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Science Laboratory would collect martian soil samples and rock cores and analyze them for environmental conditions and organic compounds that could have supported microbial life now or in the past.
The Mars Science Laboratory would be the first mission to steer itself toward the martian surface similar to the way the space shuttle controls its entry through the Earth’s upper atmosphere, guiding it precisely to the desired location on the surface before deploying its parachute for the final landing. As currently envisioned, in the final minutes before touchdown, the spacecraft would activate its parachute and retro rockets before lowering the rover package to the surface on a tether (similar to the way a skycrane helicopter moves a large object). The rover would be capable of reaching a destination that is 20 to 40 kilometers (12 to 24 miles) long, about the size of a small crater or wide canyon and three to five times smaller than previous landing zones on Mars.
Like the twin rovers now on the surface of Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory would have six wheels and cameras mounted on a mast. Unlike the twin rovers, it would collect and crush rock and soil samples and distribute them to on-board test chambers for chemical analysis. It would carry a suite of scientific instruments to identify organic compounds such as proteins, amino acids, and other acids and bases that attach themselves to carbon backbones and are essential to life as we know it. It would identify features such as atmospheric gases that may be associated with biological activity.
In addition, the Mars Science Laboratory would examine martian rocks and soils in greater detail than ever before to determine the geologic processes that formed and modified them; study the martian atmosphere; and determine the distribution and circulation of water and carbon dioxide, whether frozen, liquid, or gaseous.
NASA will select a planned landing site on the basis of highly detailed images sent to Earth by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter beginning in 2006, in addition to data from earlier missions. NASA is selecting science instruments for the mission. NASA is considering a radioisotope power source that would generate electricity to power sophisticated science instruments and other systems. This power source would also allow the rover to operate at higher and lower latitudes than those that might be traversed by a similarly equipped rover dependent on solar and battery power.



NASA plans massive Mars rover

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *