Mars 2020 Rover Gets a Super Instrument

From NASA

In this image taken June 25, 2019, engineers install the SuperCam instrument on Mars 2020's rover. This image was taken in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In this image taken June 25, 2019, engineers install the SuperCam instrument on Mars 2020’s rover. This image was taken in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have installed the SuperCam Mast Unit onto the Mars 2020 rover. The instrument’s camera, laser and spectrometers can identify the chemical and mineral makeup of targets as small as a pencil point from a distance of more than 20 feet (6 meters).

SuperCam is a next-generation version of the ChemCam instrument operating on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. It has been developed jointly in the U.S., France and Spain. Once France delivered the last piece of flight hardware, the instrument was fully integrated on the Mars 2020 rover on June 25, 2019, in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility’s High Bay 1 clean room at JPL.

“SuperCam has come a long way from being a bold and ambitious idea to an actual instrument,” said Sylvestre Maurice, the SuperCam deputy principal investigator at the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie in Toulouse, France. “While it still has a long way to go — all the way to Mars — this is a great day for not only SuperCam but the amazing consortium that put it together.”

Mars 2020 scientists will use SuperCam to examine Martian rocks and soil, seeking organic compounds that could be related to past life on Mars.

“SuperCam’s rock-zapping laser allows scientists to analyze the chemical composition of its targets,” said Soren Madsen, the payload development manager at JPL. “It lets the Mars 2020 rover conduct its cutting-edge science from a distance.”

Also to be installed in the next few weeks is Mars 2020’s Sample Caching System, which includes 17 separate motors and will collect samples of Martian rock and soil that will be left on the surface of Mars for return to Earth by a future mission.

Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July of 2020. It will land at Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021.

NASA will use Mars 2020 and other missions, including to the Moon, to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. The agency plans to establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

SuperCam is led by Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where the instrument’s Body Unit was developed. That part of the instrument was installed in the body of the rover in May and includes several spectrometers, control electronics and software. The Mast Unit was built with contributions from numerous academic laboratories in France, led by the French space agency Centre National d’Études Spatiales, and includes the high-powered laser, a telescope, a camera, an infrared spectrometer and a microphone. Calibration targets on the rover deck are provided by Spain’s University of Valladolid.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

If you want to send your name to Mars with NASA’s 2020 mission, you can do so until Sept. 30, 2019. Add your name to the list and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars here:

https://go.nasa.gov/Mars2020Pass

For more information about the mission, go to:

https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/

11 thoughts on “Mars 2020 Rover Gets a Super Instrument

  1. “The instrument’s camera, laser and spectrometers can identify the chemical and mineral makeup of targets as small as a pencil point from a distance of more than 20 feet (6 meters).”

    Can you imagine what one of those would have done to my prospecting career??

    • It would probably have left you wondering why minerals were not chemicals, and trying to work out how big the “pencil point” was that you were supposed to be targeting. How sharp is the pencil in question?

      I get really tired of this kind of pathetic condescending crap in supposed science reporting. I’m not going to get scared off by the jargon if they write 1mm in stead of “pencil point”. I’m not four years old.

      • Most people aren’t scientists and most Americans would have to look up how big 1 mm is.

        • So what? They can learn what 1mm is. God, it’s not hard…
          If you treat people like imbeciles, they’ll act like imbeciles.

  2. I hope that I am still around. following a diaconus of Cancer in the Prostrate,
    and the bones. Doc says with treatment I have 10 years left. A bit generous
    I think.

    The mission sounds fascinating and the results will be of great interest.

    MJE VK5ELL

  3. “Mars 2020 Rover Gets a Super Instrument”

    For a brief moment I thought they might have an instrument to measure the back radiation that the 95% CO2 environment is supposedly using to ‘trap’ some amount of the Sun’s energy as heat on Mars.

    How much does back radiation fluctuate throughout the Mars’ day?
    How much heat is ‘trapped’ and for how long?
    Why would we want to help resolve this mysterious unmeasurable ‘property’ that has man befuddled on Earth?
    Here’s a chance for scientists to advance science by applying their theory on a similar planet with an atmosphere that in effect, isolates CO2. The properties of CO2 could more easily be quantified.

    Is it that NASA could measure this ‘Greenhouse Gas’ property of atmospheric CO2 on Mars but they choose not to? Are the NASA scientists inept? Or is this ‘Greenhouse Gas’ property immeasurable? (which would mean that it’s not an actual physical property.)

  4. Well great. How about a simple HD camera pointed at the Earth. Or streaming video of the starfield from Mars. Makes you wonder what’s so hard about that.

  5. “Mars 2020’s Sample Caching System, which includes 17 separate motors and will collect samples of Martian rock and soil that will be left on the surface of Mars for return to Earth by a future mission.”

    Hmmmm….seems like an extra step here.

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