New Mars rover's souped-up features unveiled

From NASA Reports
The next generation Mars rover. Artist's concept: NASA.
The next generation Mars rover. Artist's concept: NASA.
     The Mars 2020 rover will be equipped with instruments aimed at helping NASA prepare for a manned mission to the red planet.

      "This is our next generation rover,” said Jim Green, director of Planetary Science at NASA, during a televised press conference July 31.
     The new equipment includes the Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer -- a set of sensors that will provide measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity, and dust size and shape.
      Another piece of equipment, known as MOXIE, will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide.  
      “When humans explore Mars, they’ll need both fuel and an oxidizer to get back off the planet and return home safely,” said Michael Hecht, assistant director for research management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Haystack Observatory. “The oxidizer is very heavy and extremely expensive and complicated to launch from Earth to Mars.”
      A small nuclear reactor and a scaled-up version of MOXIE will land on Mars first, and “by the time the crew gets there, the reactor will be operational and the oxygen tank will be full and ready to take them home,” Hecht said.
      According to NASA, other equipment includes:
  • An advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability and zoom.
  • Another camera that will provide imaging, chemical composition analysis and mineralogy.
  • An X-ray fluorescence spectrometer that will contain an imager with high resolution to determine the fine-scale elemental composition of Martian surface materials.
  • A spectrometer that will provide fine-scale imaging and uses an ultraviolet laser to determine fine-scale mineralogy and detect organic compounds.
  • A ground-penetrating radar that will provide centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.


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