NASA Mars 2020 Rover Mission Reaches New Milestone, Getting Closer to Launch

NASA’s ambitious quest in finding life on Mars continues as Curiosity keeps on driving over the Martian ground, and the InSight mission is currently in the process of studying the interior of the Red planet and listening for Marsquakes. However, NASA’s next plan of searching for more information on Mars has already started with the new mission: Mars Rover 2020.

The Mars 2020 Rover Mission Getting Closer to Launch

The mission was announced in December 2012, and since then, the teams at NASA and their Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have kept working on a new rover that will be launched on July 17, 2020. NASA’s rover will then travel towards Mars and land in the Jezero crater on Feb 18, 2021. Scientists believe that the crater was once filled with water.

As the Mars 2020 Rover mission continues, the latest milestone the team at JPL has reached was to assemble the capsule on the Mars 2020 rover, which has the same frame used for the Curiosity rover. The frame lets the vehicle stacking process to be completed easier. Vehicle stacking is an essential plan in the construction of the rover, as everything you need to put into the capsule is determined by this plan, explained JPL’s David Gruel:

“One of our main jobs is to make sure the rover and all the hardware that is required to get the rover from here on Earth to the surface of Mars fits inside the payload fairing of an Atlas V rocket, which gives us about 15 feet of width to work with.”

Gruel is the manager of the assembly, test and launch operations (ATLO) for this mission. He added that everything must be perfect when it comes to stacking:

“Stacking is an important milestone in mission development, because as good as our computer models are, we still need to put it together to show that the bolt holes line up and everything fits together.”

Even though Mars 2020 has the same frame as Curiosity, it will take other scientific instruments with it to the Red Planet.

The Next Steps in the Rover 2020 Mission

After stacking, the team must check all the attachment points and see if there are loose bolts. After stacking is finished it will be sent into a thermal vacuum chamber and stay there for a week to make sure it survives that simulated space environment. If everything is all right, it means that Mars 2020 rover will survive the space journey to Mars.

However, until the launch, the team must also work on other vital pieces of gear, such as the parachute nose cone which must also be fitted. The Rover will have to deploy that parachute once it enters Mars’ atmosphere so that it can make a smooth landing on the Martian ground.

According to JPL, Mars 2020 will gather samples in sealed tubes that will be sent to Earth in a later mission.

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