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NASA unveils 7 instruments for Mars 2020 rover

English.news.cn   2014-08-01 06:15:18

WASHINGTON, July 31 (Xinhua) -- U.S. space agency NASA said Thursday its Mars 2020 rover will carry seven instruments to conduct "unprecedented" science and exploration technology investigations on the Red Planet, including one that will be able to make oxygen for humans to breathe someday.

The instruments were chosen by NASA from 58 proposals it received in January from researchers and engineers worldwide, the space agency said, adding that the seven it chose will cost about 130 million U.S. dollars to develop.

"Proposals received were twice the usual number submitted for instrument competitions in the recent past," NASA said in a statement. "This is an indicator of the extraordinary interest by the science community in the exploration of the Mars."

Among the most exciting is the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment ( MOXIE), which will be able to produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide. The technology "will help advance our knowledge of how future human explorers could use natural resources available on the surface of the Red Planet," NASA said.

Another instrument on the rover is 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 rover will also be equipped with Mastcam-Z, a 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.

In addition to Mastcam-Z, an instrument called SuperCam will be able to 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.

Meanwhile, an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer known as Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) will be able to identify chemical elements in target spots as small as a grain of table salt.

Another spectrometer on the rover, Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC), will provide fine-scale imaging and uses an ultraviolet (UV) laser to determine fine-scale mineralogy and detect organic compounds.

The rover's toolkit also includes the Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Exploration (RIMFAX), a ground-penetrating radar that will provide centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.

All the seven instruments will be placed on a rover similar to Curiosity, which has been exploring Mars since 2012.

Using a proven landing system and rover chassis design to deliver these new experiments to Mars will ensure mission costs and risks are minimized as much as possible, while still delivering a highly capable rover, NASA said.

"The Mars 2020 rover, with these new advanced scientific instruments, including those from our international partners, holds the promise to unlock more mysteries of Mars' past as revealed in the geological record," John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said.

"This mission will further our search for life in the universe and also offer opportunities to advance new capabilities in exploration technology."

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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