NASA Accepting Payload Applications For Mars Rover 2020 Mission
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
NASA has announced that they are currently accepting applications from researchers hoping to have their science and exploration technology instruments become part of the payload of the US space agency’s next Mars rover.
The new rover, which is scheduled to be launched in July or August of 2020, will further explore Mars and determine whether or not the Red Planet could be a potential habitat for life. It will also seek out signs of past life on the planet, collect specific sample types for a possible return journey to Earth, and demonstrate technology designed for potential human exploration of Mars at some point in the future.
“Officially called the Mars 2020 Mission Investigations Announcement of Opportunity (AO), this competition solicits flight investigations for which each principal investigator or scientist is responsible for a complete space flight investigation, including instrument hardware, mission operations and data analysis,” NASA officials explained in a statement Friday.
According to the agency, a total of $130 million will be allocated to fund selected projects, and instruments that are selected will travel to the Red Planet on a rover similar in nature to Curiosity. Using the current rover’s design will help minimize the costs and risks associated with the mission, while also increasing the odds that the vehicle is capable of accomplishing the mission objectives, they added.
The goal of the Mars 2020 mission is to build upon the accomplishments of Curiosity, which landed on the planet’s surface last August, and other previous rovers. Unlike those missions, however, Mars 2020 is seeking to accomplish a series of high-priority scientific goals with an eye towards making President Obama’s challenge of sending manned missions to Mars sometime in the 2030s a reality.
“The Mars 2020 mission will provide a unique capability to address the major questions of habitability and life in the solar system,” explained Dr. Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division. “The science conducted by the rover’s instruments also would expand our knowledge of Mars and provide the context needed to make wise decisions about whether to return any collected samples to Earth.”
The Mars 2020 Science Definition Team, a group of 19 scientists and engineers from universities and research organizations that outlined the mission’s objectives, is counting on the rover to take mineralogy and rock chemistry measurements down to a microscopic scale. They hope that this data will help scientists better understand the Martian environment around the landing site, as well as find evidence of potential past life.
“The 2020 rover could also make measurements and conduct technology demonstrations to help designers of a human expedition understand any hazards posed by Martian dust and demonstrate how to collect carbon dioxide, which could be a resource for making oxygen and rocket fuel,” the space agency said.
“The Mars 2020 rover will test technologies that are key to one-day landing human explorers on the Red Planet,” added Jason Crusan, director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division. “New technologies could allow astronauts to live off the land as they explore the ancient valleys of Mars. The capability to manufacture breathable air, rocket fuel, water and more may forever change how we explore space.”
To view the Announcement of Opportunity online, visit: http://solicitation.nasaprs.com/Mars2020.