Since the immediate cosmic neighborhood of Earth, the Solar System, was determined by exceptionally intelligent humans such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton, a big question has been: can any other planet sustain life? ? The Solar System is really small by factors of millions compared to interstellar distances, but these distances are discouraging for man to pbad through. To put this distance in perspective, NASA launched a mission called New Horizons in January 2006 and could reach Pluto, the most distant planetary body in the Solar System, only in the summer of 2015. It took about 10 years for New Horizons I could see Pluto, the first time humanity saw what seemed close. But a planet that is not so far away and is more likely to harbor life, since it used to have it (well, billions of years ago), is Mars. NASA has been studying the planet for years and even sent a rover that collected data from the surface of the Red Planet, the Curiosity. Now, NASA is planning the Mars 2020 Mission and the rover has been updated. So, what does it take for a small machine built by man to badume the unknown surfaces of another planet?
The new rover looks a lot like the Curiosity rover from Mars, but the science machine with Mars off-roader has seven new instruments, redesigned wheels and more autonomy. This new hardware is being developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which manages the mission of the agency. It includes the cruise stage of the Mars 2020 mission, which will take the explorer through space, and the descent stage, a "crane from the sky" propelled by rockets that will lower it to the surface of the planet.
The new rover has new goals to reach and, therefore, is loaded with cutting-edge scientific instruments. JPL is also developing a new crucial landing technology called relative ground navigation. As the descent stage approaches the Martian surface, it will use computer vision to compare the landscape with pre-installed terrain maps. This technology will guide the descent stage to safe landing sites, correcting their course on the road.
How do you drive?
The rovers were initially designed to move up to 100 meters each sun (Martian Day, which is approximately 24 hours and 40 minutes), although they have gone much further. A carpet of one hundred meters sounds less, but there are good reasons for that. While one day lasts long on Mars, the Sun can only provide enough energy for the rover to circulate in a four-hour window around noon.
The communication time between Earth and Mars is approximately 20 minutes, so it is a challenge to go from rock to rock or location to location. Unlike a remotely piloted car, the controller of a Mars Rover can not immediately see what is happening and can not send quick commands to avoid a catastrophe, for example, if the rover approaches the edge of a cliff.
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During surface operations on Mars, each rover receives a new set of instructions at the beginning of each Sun. Sent from scientists and engineers on Earth, the script tells the robot what targets to go and what scientific experiments to perform on Mars.
A drill will capture rock cores, while a caching system with a miniature robotic arm will seal these samples. Then, they will be deposited on the Martian surface for a possible mission in the future.