By NASA/JPL-Caltech via Wikimedia Commons
Nasa has exposed the rover that it hopes will be able to find aliens on Mars once and for all.
The new and much improved unmanned vehicle will travel to the planet as part of the Mars 2020 mission. As it does, the rover will look for signs of ancient microbial life on the said planet, which has until the present has been believed to be uninhabitable.
The rover will be the successor to the Curiosity rover that was launched in 2012, which is still currently exploring the surface of the red planet. It looks very similar to the Curiosity rover, and it borrows many of the same technologies. However, according to its creators at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the new rover will also feature re-designed wheels and a full seven new instruments.
Many of those sensors will enable the rover to examine the planet’s terrain, searching beneath and above its surface. It will pick up various rock and soil samples, looking through them for signs of life.
a JPL scientist with the Mars 2020 project, Ken Farley, said: “What we learn from the samples collected during this mission has the potential to address whether we’re alone in the universe.”
Around 85 percent of the new rover is making use of the same components as its predecessor. The director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, Jim Watzin, stated: “The fact that so much of the hardware has already been designed — or even already exists — is a major advantage for this mission. It saves us money, time and most of all, reduces risk.”
However, the differences are significant and build on the work that NASA has done since. Majority of that includes information that has been sent back by the Curiosity rover– and gave enticing clues that scientists presently hope to be able to examine further using better technology.
That includes technology that will enable it to look for signs of life at the scale of microbes. These include an X-ray spectrometer that can locate spots as small as a grain of salt and an ultraviolet laser that can view the commonly invisible glow that is expelled by excited rings of carbon atoms.
NASA’s Mars 2020 program executive, George Tahu, stated: “Our next instruments will build on the success of MSL, which was a proving ground for new technology. These will gather scientific data in ways that weren’t possible before.”
The new rover will be carried to Mars with the use of a new cruise stage, that will carry it into space, and a specialised “sky crane” that will lower it down. JPL is currently developing a new landing technology that will enable the rover to visit sites that were deemed too risky for Curiosity and cut miles off its journey.
NASA has landed spacecraft on Mars successfully for seven times and is making use of the International Space Station in order to prepare for human missions to Mars and the moon.