NASA’s next mission to the surface of Mars is called the 2020 rover (in case you didn’t know already.) It’s planned launch date is July 17th, 2020, and it should land at Jezero Crater on Mars on February 18th 2021. The rover is still under construction at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California.
Now you can nerd out on this fantastic bundle of technological capability and science-doing machinery with a live webcam.
NASA has just installed a webcam at the JPL Spacecraft Assembly Facility (SAF) clean room where the 2020 rover is being built. NASA calls the whole thing “Seeing 2020” and the camera is situated in a viewing gallery above all the action. There’s no audio though, that would be kind of creepy.
You can see all the action here, although to be honest, there’s a lot of standing around.
What the heck though? We all sit around at work, but these people are building a freaking rover that will roll around on Mars! That’s worthy of a little bit of excitement, isn’t it?
“There is so much happening and changing in the clean room, I come here every opportunity I get,” said Mars 2020 project manager John McNamee of JPL. “It is great that we can share this part of our journey to the Red Planet with the public anytime they want.”
Work starts on the rover every week day at 8 AM Pacific Time. The back shell, descent stage and cruise stage have already been assembled and tested. If you go to the feed to take a look, you may or may not see that much, depending on your timing. Some assembly work will happen at other facilities, or when workers are doing something out of view of the camera. There could be instances where the camera is off for some reason, too.
There’s still months of work ahead, so chances are good you can see something interesting happening if you keep checking back. However, sometimes it’s a pretty quiet place.
There are also scheduled chats that you can take part in at the same link. They’re scheduled for Monday to Thursday at 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM PDT (2 PM and 7 PM EDT.)
We don’t mean to poke fun at NASA. They’re a fascinating organization that serves all of humanity, not just America. Where would humanity be without them? Seriously, stop and think about that for a minute.
But realistically, building a rover involves a lot of meticulous planning and incremental work. It’s not like helping your brother-in-law put up some siding. It’s cool to be able to see it directly, but it’s not going to knock “Black Mirror” out of its spot in the ratings chart.
The Mars 2020 rover is NASA’s next mission in their Mars Exploration Program (MEP) which has already accomplished so much. It’ll be looking for evidence of habitability in Mars’ ancient past. It’ll also be looking for evidence of past microbial life. In a first, it’ll also collect samples that will be retrieved by a future mission and returned to Earth.