Mars to get newer, more high-tech rover in 2020

"The 2020 rover will help answer questions about the Martian environment that astronauts will face," said William Gerstenmaier.
By Brooks Hays  |  Aug. 1, 2014 at 1:31 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Everyone loves NASA's latest Mars rover Curiosity, the four-wheeled robot that continues to unravel the Red Planet's many mysteries. But in 2020, Curiosity will have to share the limelight with a new and improved rover.

NASA is currently designing a more robust and sophisticated rover that will be launched and delivered to Mars in 2020. Yesterday, the space agency announced the instruments that will be included on the payload of the next rover at its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

NASA fielded suggestions from all over the world. Of the 58 official proposals offered by researchers and engineers, officials selected seven -- including new high-tech panoramic cameras, spectrometers and more. Descriptions of all seven major instrument components can be found on NASA's website.

These instruments will allow NASA scientist to further explore the Red Planet's geological and chemical features, in order to shed further light on Mars' many dynamic systems -- its present and past environment, climate cycles, geology and biological potential.

One of the more intriguing instruments was suggested by Svein-Erik Hamran, a researcher at Forsvarets Forskning Institute in Norway. The instrument is called the Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Exploration (RIMFAX); it's a ground-penetrating radar component that will offer precise imagery of geologic structures of Mars' subsurface.

"The 2020 rover will help answer questions about the Martian environment that astronauts will face and test technologies they need before landing on, exploring and returning from the Red Planet," said William Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

Gerstenmaier teamed with the leaders of NASA's Mars Exploration Program to field and select the instruments for the next Mars rover.

"Mars has resources needed to help sustain life, which can reduce the amount of supplies that human missions will need to carry," Gerstenmaier added. "Better understanding the Martian dust and weather will be valuable data for planning human Mars missions. Testing ways to extract these resources and understand the environment will help make the pioneering of Mars feasible."

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