NASA’s Mars 2020 takes step closer to mission readiness
At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, bunny-suited engineers move the Mars 2020 rover from a high bay in the Spacecraft Simulator Building into the facility’s large vacuum chamber for testing in Mars-like environmental conditions.
After chamber testing, the 2020 rover was moved back to JPL’s Spacecraft Assembly Facility where it is undergoing radio emissions testing. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July 2020. It will land at Jezero Crater on 18 February 2021.
Mars 2020 engineer Chris Chatellier of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said, “Whenever you move the rover, it is a big deal. There is a technician on every corner, and other engineers and safety inspectors are monitoring and assisting every step of the way. Every move is choreographed, briefed and rehearsed.”
Charged with returning astronauts to the moon by 2024, NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans will establish a sustained human presence on and around the moon by 2028. JPL and NASA will use what we learn on the moon to prepare to send astronauts to Mars.
This milestone comes just weeks following the announcement by NASA that the Mars 2020 rover was another step closer to being mission-ready as scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California successfully tested the rover’s capacity to carry its full weight on its legs and wheels.
Ben Riggs, a mechanical systems engineer working on Mars 2020 at JPL, said, “After years of design, analysis and testing, it is fantastic to see the rover on her wheels for the first time.”
Measuring 20.7 inches (52.5 centimetres) in diameter and machined with traction-providing cleats, or grousers, the wheels are engineering models that will be replaced with flight models next year. Every wheel has its own motor.
The two front and two rear wheels also have individual steering motors that enable the vehicle to turn a full 360 degrees in place.
JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for NASA. The rover will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in July 2020 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.
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