Mars 2020 Rover is Going to a Place on Mars That’s Perfect for Preserving Fossils

Back in November 2018, NASA announced that the Mars 2020 rover would land in the Jezero Crater. Jezero Crater is a geologically diverse area, with an alluvial fan of sediment deposited by an incoming river. That sediment may contain preserved ancient organic molecules, and the deposit is clearly visible in satellite images of the Crater.

But the crater holds something else that has scientists intrigued, something that doesn’t show up so clearly in visible light images: a “bathtub ring” of carbonates, which scientists think could hold fossils.

Continue reading “Mars 2020 Rover is Going to a Place on Mars That’s Perfect for Preserving Fossils”

Mars 2020 Rover Gets its Helicopter Sidekick

Work on the Mars 2020 Rover is heating up as the July/August 2020 launch date approaches. Mission engineers just attached the Mars Helicopter to the belly of the rover, where it will make the journey to Mars. Both the solar-powered helicopter and the Mars Helicopter Delivery System are now attached to the rover.

NASA’s Mars Helicopter will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet. The small rotor-craft only weighs 1.8 kg (4 lbs.) and is made of lightweight materials like carbon fiber and aluminum. It’s largely a technology demonstration mission, and is important to NASA. The overall mission for the Mars 2020 rover won’t depend on the helicopter, but NASA hopes to learn a lot about how to proceed with aircraft on future missions by putting the Mars helicopter through its paces on Mars.

Continue reading “Mars 2020 Rover Gets its Helicopter Sidekick”

NASA is Building Robots That Can Climb Rock and Ice Cliffs

NASA has pioneered the development of all kinds of robots and robotic systems. Beyond its0 orbiters and satellites, which have been exploring the planets and bodies of the Solar System for decades, there’s also the growing army of landers and rovers that have been exploring planetary surfaces. Aboard the ISS, they even have floating robots (like CIMON) and humanoid robot helpers – a la Robonaut and Robonaut 2.

Looking to the future, NASA hopes to build robots that can do even more. While the current generation of rovers can drive across the plains and craters of Mars, what if they could explore cliffs, polar ice caps and other hard-to-reach places? That is the purpose behind the Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot (LEMUR) that is currently being developed by engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Continue reading “NASA is Building Robots That Can Climb Rock and Ice Cliffs”

Where Does Mars’ Methane Go? New Study Provides Possible Answer, with Implications in the Search for Life.

For centuries, scientists have speculated about the existence of life on Mars. But it was only within the past 15 years that the search for life (past and present) really began to heat up. It was at this time that methane, an organic molecule that is associated with many forms of life here on Earth (i.e. a “biosignature”) was detected in Mars’ atmosphere.

Since that time, attempts to study Mars’ atmospheric methane have produced varying results. In some cases, methane has been found that was several times its normal concentrations; in others, it was absent. Seeking to answer this mystery, an interdisciplinary team from Aarhus University recently conducted a study where they investigated a possible mechanism for the removal of methane from Mars’ atmosphere.

Continue reading “Where Does Mars’ Methane Go? New Study Provides Possible Answer, with Implications in the Search for Life.”

Of Course Mars 2020 is Going to Get a New Name. NASA is Looking for Judges for an Upcoming Naming Contest

A little over a year from now, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will launch for Cape Canaveral and begin its journey to the Red Planet. When it arrives, in February 2021, it will begin exploring the Jezero Crater to learn more about Mars’ past and search for evidence of past and present life. But before that happens, this robotic explorer still needs a proper name.

Like its predecessors, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity, the Mars 2020 rover will get its official name with the help of a nationwide contest. Towards this end, NASA recently announced that it has partnered with two organizations to give K-12 students all across the US a chance to name the rover that will continue in the search for life and pave the way for humans to begin exploring Mars.

Continue reading “Of Course Mars 2020 is Going to Get a New Name. NASA is Looking for Judges for an Upcoming Naming Contest”

This is Where Mars 2020 Rover is Heading. From this Picture, I Think You Can Guess Why

Get used to hearing the name “Jezero Crater.” It’s the landing site for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. The 2020 rover is slated to launch in July 2020, and will land at Jezero Crater in February, 2021.

It’s pretty easy to see why NASA chose Jezero Crater for the next rover in their Mars Exploration Program (MEP). MEP is NASA’s long-term plan to explore Mars robotically. It includes rovers like Spirit, Opportunity, and MSL, the InSight Lander, orbiting spacecraft, and soon the 2020 rover.

Continue reading “This is Where Mars 2020 Rover is Heading. From this Picture, I Think You Can Guess Why”

This Strange Feature on Mars was Probably the Result of an Ancient Volcanic Explosion

A strange feature on the surface of Mars has kept scientists guessing about its origin. It’s a surface deposit of a mineral which is more common in the interiors of planets. A new study shows that this interior mineral was probably brought to the surface by an ancient explosive volcano.

Continue reading “This Strange Feature on Mars was Probably the Result of an Ancient Volcanic Explosion”

Don’t Forget, Curiosity’s Sister Rover is Flying to Mars in 2020

Next summer, NASA will be sending it’s Mars 2020 rover to the Red Planet. In addition to being the second rover to go as part of the Mars Exploration Program, it will be one of eight functioning missions exploring the atmosphere and surface of the planet. These include the recently-arrived InSight lander, the Curiosity rover – Mars 2020s sister-mission – and
the Opportunity rover (which NASA recently lost contact with and retired).

As the launch date gets closer and closer, NASA is busily making all the final preparations for this latest member of the Mars exploration team. In addition to selecting a name (which will be selected from an essay contest), this includes finalizing the spacecraft that will take the rover on its seven-month journey to Mars. Recently, NASA posted images of the spacecraft being inspected at NASA JPL’s Space Simulator Facility (SFF) in Pasadena, California.

Continue reading “Don’t Forget, Curiosity’s Sister Rover is Flying to Mars in 2020”