Tech & Science NASA's Mars 2020 Rover Is Sending Back a Piece of Mars

13:11  14 february  2018
13:11  14 february  2018 Source:   Newsweek

Israeli scientists complete mock Mars mission in Negev desert

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NASA is making grand plans to bring a piece of Mars back to Earth. Today, the space agency announced the goals for the unnamed rover —pictured in an artist' s rendering above—that will be sent to the red planet in 2020 . This is going to be incredible.

Mars 2020 will re-use the basic engineering of NASA ' s Mars Science Laboratory to send a different rover to Mars , with new objectives and instruments, launching in 2020 .

Rohit Bhartia of NASA's Mars 2020 mission holds a slice of a meteorite scientists have determined came from Mars.© NASA/JPL-CALTECH Rohit Bhartia of NASA's Mars 2020 mission holds a slice of a meteorite scientists have determined came from Mars. NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is going to carry a chunk of an ancient Martian meteorite back to its home planet. Ancient pieces of Mars have been resting on Earth in the form of meteorites, which scientists determined blew off Mars’ surface millions of years ago. Now, scientists have decided to send a chunk known as Sayh al Uhaymir 008 (SAU008) aboard the rover, NASA announced Tuesday.

The soon-to-be meteorite passenger is going to be used as target practice for a laser technology designed to examine rock features on Mars as fine as human hair. The laser instrument known as SHERLOC (short for Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) will study Martian rock—but scientists need a testing spot first. Oftentimes, instruments like SHERLOC are tested on rocks, metal and glass placed on the Red Planet, and even spacesuit materials—which helps SHERLOC analyze how spacesuits survive the Martian environment. But, scientists at the California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists thought using a piece of Mars itself might prove even more effective for target practice.

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NASA ' s Mars 2020 rover would carry science instruments to search for past microbial life, cache rock samples, and prepare for human exploration of Mars . Science Instruments on NASA ' s Mars 2020 Rover .

Cameras. Credit: NASA /JPL-Caltech. For the Mars 2020 rover , the engineering team is adding several cameras and a microphone to document entry, descent and landing in even greater detail.

“We’re studying things on such a fine scale that slight misalignments, caused by changes in temperature or even the rover settling into sand, can require us to correct our aim,” Luther Beegle principal investigator for SHERLOC from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. “By studying how the instrument sees a fixed target, we can understand how it will see a piece of the Martian surface.”

SHERLOC works by using similar techniques that forensic experts use. For instance, certain chemicals exposed to ultraviolet light reveal a certain glow—like that beneath a black light. SHERLOC will use a similar process through taking pictures of Martian rock and mapping the chemicals that "glow" to indicate the presence of life.

In Oman desert, European venture sets sights on Mars

  In Oman desert, European venture sets sights on Mars Would-be astronauts in aluminium-coated suits venture out in rovers from a sprawling camp in Oman's barren desert: a simulation by a European venture aiming to one day help humans survive on Mars.&nbsp;Would-be astronauts in aluminium-coated suits venture out in rovers from a sprawling camp in Oman's barren desert: a simulation by a European venture aiming to one day help humans survive on Mars.

Three sites were selected to continue as landing site candidates: Columbia Hills, Jezero Crater, NE Syrtis. See the letter describing the workshop results, sent by the Mars 2020 rover Project Scientists to the NASA Mars Lead Scientist.

NASA ' s Next Great Mars Rover Will Search for Martians and Prepare for Humans to Follow. If NASA could bring samples of martian rock back to labs on Earth, then Artist’s concept of the Mars 2020 rover studying a rock outcrop on Mars . NASA . The sky crane is adequate for Mars 2020 .

“This kind of science requires texture and organic chemicals—two things that our target meteorite will provide,” Rohit Bhartia of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and SHERLOC’s deputy principal investigator, said in a statement.

Science instruments for NASA's Mars 2020 rover mission.© NASA Science instruments for NASA's Mars 2020 rover mission. The hunt for the perfect meteorite to send back to Mars was carefully planned. There are around 200 known Martian meteorites on Earth—and scientists had to find one that could survive launch and landing. Plus, it needed to be tough, not flaky, and have specific chemical features to test SHERLOC. The one they chose, SaU008, was discovered in Oman in 1999. The sample is rugged, according to researchers, and it was also conveniently up for grabs to use as a test sample from Caroline Smith, the principal curator of meteorites at London’s Natural History Museum.

There will be two pieces of SaU008 for testing on Earth and on Mars. The sample to go to Mars will be the first to return to the planet's surface, though not the first on a return trip to Mars in general. Zagami, another Martian meteorite is still floating in Mars' orbit on the now-defunct Mars Global Surveyor. A second instrument called SuperCam on Mars 2020 rover will also pick out a sample for target practice. Smith said in a statement: “This is a first for us: sending one of our samples back from home for the benefit of science.”

Comment: Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster will eventually crash in space -- and scientists think they know where and by when

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NASA ’ s Mars 2020 rover will have 23 cameras, to capture more detailed 3D and color images of the Red Planet. The new cameras have the ability to compress images to make them easier to send back .

A sketch of the Mars 2020 rover design. Image: NASA . We have pieces of Mars (meteorites) all over Earth, but the problem with them is they have been altered (via processes like impacts) and we don't know where they came from."

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