NASA Mars 2020 mission is still quite far away, but that hasn’t stopped the US space agency from revealing details about the mission including the details about cameras that will be fitted on the rover as well as its payload.
According to NASA, the Mars 2020 mission rover will have the power of 23 “eyes” (cameras) enabling the mission team to not only capture stunning imagery, but also study the atmosphere as well as assist other science instruments. The 23 eyes of the NASA Mars 2020 mission as they are called will enable scientists to capture dramatic views of Mars as the mission descends while also offering a view of the parachute as it opens on Mars. There will even be a camera inside the rover’s body, which will study samples as they’re stored and left on the surface for collection by a future mission.
According to information revealed by NASA, the cameras on Mars 2020 mission will include more color and 3-D imaging than on Curiosity. The Mastcam-Z where “Z” stands for “zoom” will have stereoscopic cameras can support more 3-D images, which are ideal for examining geologic features and scouting potential samples from long distances away.
On the new rover, the engineering cameras have been upgraded to acquire high-resolution, 20-megapixel color images. Their lenses will also have a wider field of view. That’s critical for the 2020 mission, which will try to maximize the time spent doing science and collecting samples.
That means less time spent panning, snapping pictures and stitching. The cameras are also able to reduce motion blur, so they can take photos while the rover is on the move.
Data Link to Mars
While greater resolution cameras is a great thing to have on a rover, the challenge is with beaming all the captured data through space. NASA scientists say that the telecommunications link between Earth and Mars is the limiting factor even though advanced cameras will be fitted on Mars 2020 mission.
On Spirit and Opportunity, the compression was done using the onboard computer; on Curiosity, much of it was done using electronics built into the camera. That allows for more 3-D imaging, color, and even high-speed video.
NASA has also gotten better at using orbiting spacecraft as data relays. That concept was pioneered for rover missions with Spirit and Opportunity.
Mars 2020 mission payload
Mastcam-Z, an advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability with the ability to zoom. The instrument also will determine mineralogy of the Martian surface and assist with rover operations. The principal investigator is James Bell, Arizona State University in Tempe.
SuperCam, an instrument that can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy. The instrument will also be able to detect the presence of organic compounds in rocks and regolith from a distance. The principal investigator is Roger Wiens, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico. This instrument also has a significant contribution from the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales,Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Plane’tologie (CNES/IRAP) France.
Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer that will also contain an imager with high resolution to determine the fine scale elemental composition of Martian surface materials. PIXL will provide capabilities that permit more detailed detection and analysis of chemical elements than ever before. The principal investigator is Abigail Allwood, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC), a spectrometer that will provide fine-scale imaging and uses an ultraviolet (UV) laser to determine fine-scale mineralogy and detect organic compounds. SHERLOC will be the first UV Raman spectrometer to fly to the surface of Mars and will provide complementary measurements with other instruments in the payload. The principal investigator is Luther Beegle, JPL.
The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), an exploration technology investigation that will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide. The principal investigator is Michael Hecht, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA), a set of sensors that will provide measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity and dust size and shape. The principal investigator is Jose’ Antonio Rodriguez-Manfredi, Centro de Astrobiologia, Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial, Spain.
The Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX), a ground-penetrating radar that will provide centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface. The principal investigator is Svein-Erik Hamran, the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), Norway.