The Mars 2020 rover is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2020 and arrive at the Red Planet in February 2021
NASA has announced that plans for the Mars 2020 rover are on pace for its 2020 launch, and that it is ready to proceed with the final design and construction of the project. Some of the design and hardware of Mars 2020 are being borrowed from the Curiosity rover, including the sky crane landing system, but some added enhancements will allow it to land safely in more rugged areas.
A range trigger will allow NASA to guide where they want the parachute to open on landing, rather than just at what speed it should deploy, says Allen Chen, who is the Mars 2020 entry, descent, and landing lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. He says that feature “shrinks our landing area by nearly half.”
Another safety feature is terrain-relative navigation, which will use onboard analysis of images looking down at the planet’s surface which will be taken during the descent. These images will be matched to a map that indicates unsafe landing zones to avoid.
Information devices will also be a part of the Mars 2020 rover. An Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) microphone will be on board, which, in combination with the cameras, will provide data that can be used on future Mars missions. It is planned that the sounds and images transmitted from this equipment will be available to the public as well. Mars 2020 JPL Deputy Project Manager Matt Wallace said, “This will be a great opportunity for the public to hear the sound of Mars for the first time, and it could also provide useful engineering information.”
Two active rovers are already on the Martian surface and three NASA spacecraft are orbiting the planet, all part of the Mars Exploration Program. The Mars 2020 rover mission is also part of the program There are also plans for a 2018 launch of Insight, a stationary lander that will study the interior of Mars.
Image credit: NASA