The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), on Friday, Dec. 27, gave members of the press special access to the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory “clean room.”
This is the space where NASA Mars 2020 team members were doing the finishing touches on the Mars 2020 rover.
Mars 2020 Flight System Manager Ray Baker introduced the set up. “Behind me, you see the descent stage. This is the propulsion system that handles the sky crane maneuver at the end of EDL. In the middle is the rover,” said Baker.
“That’s our payload in the science platform that we’re sending to Mars. And on the far side of the clean room is the crew stage. And that’s the precision power and propulsion system that guides us from Earth to Mars,” Baker explained.
Mars 2020 team members showed off their progress on the rover. “We put the rover and these systems through thermal and vacuum environments and simulate the vibration of launch just to make sure that they’re qualified and that they’ll be able to withstand those environments,” said Baker.
“From here on out, it’s test, test, test,” Baker said. “We’re testing everything we possibly can. Shaking out the bugs to make sure that we’ve got a reliable system to send to Mars.”
The configuration of the Mars 2020 rover is based on the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover.
The Rover is car-sized, about 10 feet long (excluding the arm extension), 9 feet wide, and 7 feet tall. At 2,314 pounds, it weighs less than a compact car.
NASA engineers designed this rover to collect rock and soil samples from Mars, with the hope that these will someday be transported back to earth.
“I am extremely excited about seeing this rover collect its first sample that we may possibly bring back to Earth,” said Baker. “This is an exciting time for us,” he continued, “I worked on Curiosity and Curiosity was looking for signs of a past habitable environments. This time, we’re looking for signs of past life. And that to me is just amazing.”
Mars 2020 engineers expressed their enthusiasm.
“I am most excited to see the hardware that all of us have worked so hard on over the past few years and make its way to the Martian surface,” said Mars 2020 engineer Chris Chatellier.
Engineer Jessica Samuels, who is Mars 2020 lead flight system engineer said, “ “I’m excited to be able to bring back a little piece of Mars to Earth with this mission and to see how the technology has developed over the course of our Martian missions.”
According to the description on NASA website, the rover parts are like what a living creature would need to be able to explore and keep itself “alive.”
The Mars rover is scheduled to land on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.