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It's expected to give us a whole new look at the Red Planet

NASA plans to pull out the big guns for its next Mars rover, reportedly equipping it with seven proposed tools that will allow it to explore the surface in different ways than ever before. 

According to NASA, the next Mars rover -- set to launch in 2020 -- will have seven proposed instruments, including Mastcam-Z, SuperCam, Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL), Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC), the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE), Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) and the Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Exploration (RIMFAX).

"Today we take another important step on our journey to Mars," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

"While getting to and landing on Mars is hard, Curiosity was an iconic example of how our robotic scientific explorers are paving the way for humans to pioneer Mars and beyond. Mars exploration will be this generation’s legacy, and the Mars 2020 rover will be another critical step on humans' journey to the Red Planet."

The Mastcam-Z is an advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability as well as zoom, and it will determine mineralogy of the Martian surface and assist with rover operations.

The SuperCam is 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 from a distance. 

The Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) is 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.

The Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC) is a spectrometer that will provide fine-scale imaging and uses an ultraviolet (UV) laser to determine fine-scale mineralogy and detect organic compounds.

The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) is an exploration technology investigation that will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) is a set of sensors that will provide measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity and dust size and shape.

Finally, the Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Exploration (RIMFAX) is a ground-penetrating radar that will provide centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.

The Mars 2020 rover is part the agency's Mars Exploration Program, which includes the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, the Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft (currently orbiting the planet) and the MAVEN orbiter.

Source: NASA

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Flying Drone capability
By peterrushkin on 8/1/2014 1:53:28 PM , Rating: 2
I cant wait till they add the ability to add a flying drone with the rover.

That is, the drone takes off, takes ariel footage or does exploration and then comes back to the rover and recharges. Which then uploads data back to earth.

So be easy to do with todays tech, although with the limited space they have. Maybe a few revisions down the line.

RE: Flying Drone capability
By amanojaku on 8/1/2014 2:05:56 PM , Rating: 3
It won't be easy at all. Drones fly like through the air using lift like planes or helicopters, but Mars has a thin atmosphere. You would need a drone based on propellant, and that would run out fast or be quite large. Unless you know of some other propulsion technology?

RE: Flying Drone capability
By Cakemeister on 8/1/2014 2:32:46 PM , Rating: 3

RE: Flying Drone capability
By TheDoc9 on 8/1/2014 2:38:14 PM , Rating: 2
Interesting, there was a story about a new propulsion technology today. The emdrive.

RE: Flying Drone capability
By amanojaku on 8/1/2014 2:51:56 PM , Rating: 5
Yeah, the Cannae drive. :) It looks promising, but we need more tests.

Some info on Mars flight:

* The Mars atmosphere is 95 percent carbon dioxide, with slightly more than a tenth of 1 percent oxygen. That rules out oxygen-breathing motors and forces flying machines to rely on chemical or electrical propulsion.
The Mars atmosphere is very thin, similar to the Earth's atmosphere at 100,000 feet. "Nothing flies at that altitude with any regularity," Michelson says. "You must fly very fast and are on the ragged edge of control."
Because the Mars atmosphere is so thin, a conventional aircraft would have to fly at least 250 miles an hour to generate enough lift to stay aloft. At that speed, landing or taking off from the rocky terrain would be impossible, limiting a conventional aircraft to a single flight. A wide turning radius would also make it difficult to come back for a closer look at an object of interest.
Temperatures swing wildly from 20 degrees Celsius to minus 140 degrees Celsius, creating materials and fuel challenges.
Because the speed of sound is 20 percent lower in carbon dioxide, propellers or rotors can't spin as fast as they could on Earth without creating destructive shock waves. That limits the lifting power of rotorcraft, or forces them to use less efficient multiple rotor systems.

RE: Flying Drone capability
By Spuke on 8/1/2014 5:27:53 PM , Rating: 2
That's damn interesting! Thanks!

RE: Flying Drone capability
By Jaybus on 8/4/2014 7:14:56 AM , Rating: 3
Promising in space, not for a drone in the Martian atmosphere. Thus far the thing generates at best around 1 mN/W. In Mars' gravity it would require at least 3.7 kW/kg just to hover.

RE: Flying Drone capability
By wordsworm on 8/4/2014 12:13:31 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, I invented an engine that can use heat to get propulsion. If patents weren't so confusing and expensive I'd have come out with it by now. Although I support many of Obama's decisions, his decision to change from a first to invent to a first to file on inventions makes inventors very vulnerable. The Conartist party in Canada did the same thing... not that Canadian patents cover the American market any more (again, because of the change)...

It really sucks to be an inventor in the US or Canada now.

RE: Flying Drone capability
By Bubbacub on 8/1/2014 4:32:10 PM , Rating: 2
Average atmospheric pressure on Mars at datum level is 10mmHg, (1000 at sea level here).

That's one hundredth the lift. You are going to need a big ass wing made out of super light fairy dust to get a rc drone going on Mars.

A blimp is a possibility, but getting the balloon material thin and light whilst also being strong enough to withstand the pressure differential will be hard.

The good thing about the lack of atmosphere is that satellites can be put into very low orbits, a constellation of cheap mass produced satellites with decent cameras could give us a very up to date high resolution map of the planet, kind of like what a drone on earth could do.

Wish they would use this rover to do the first stage of a sample return mission - I.e. scoop up some interesting soils on its travels and put them in a sealed canister that could then be picked up by a future missions.

P.s. congrats on making a non racist post!

RE: Flying Drone capability
By Bubbacub on 8/1/2014 11:07:08 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Flying Drone capability
By Oakley516 on 8/2/2014 5:34:38 PM , Rating: 2
How could they do this if it has to be flown remotely by a pilot on Earth?

Doesn't it take 20 minutes or so for a radio signal command to get to Mars? And 20 minutes for confirmation of the signal to come back to Earth?

The battery on the drone will need to be recharged just as the pilot tells the drone to lift off.

RE: Flying Drone capability
By Jaybus on 8/4/2014 7:26:50 AM , Rating: 2
Yes. Everything has to be semi-autonomous, including the rover. Commands from Earth are basically "move from point a to point b and await further instruction". Yet, like on Earth, autonomous flight is easier than autonomous surface travel.

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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