NASA’s Mars 2020 rover looking more and more like a rover

Now less than one year from launch, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover continues to take shape at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. In these three images, cameras captured the rover’s robot arm and instrument turret moving from the fully deployed to stowed position; a look inside the electronic heart of the rover where a myriad of wires and other systems are woven together in a complex assembly; and the spacecraft’s generator housing where a nuclear power pack will be installed at the launch pad. The rover’s arm is 2.1 metres (7.1 feet) long, features five motorized joints and a 40-kilogram (88-pound) instrument turret that carries high-definition cameras, the Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals – SHERLOC – instrument, another known as the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry, or PIXL, and a percussive drill. Click here for a short video showing the arm moving to the stowed position.

The robot arm of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is put through its paces during spacecraft assembly at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Image: NASA

The image below, captured on 1 June, shows the complex inner workings of the rover, which was flipped over at the time to give engineers better access. In the foreground left of center is the relatively wire-free body of the mast-mounted SuperCam instrument. At the top, an engineer checks out wiring directly above the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, or MOXIE, that will test a technique for extracting oxygen from the martian atmosphere. The red cover to the left protects a compartment where the Adaptive Cashing Assembly, or ACA, will process rock and soil samples that will be stored for a possible return to Earth aboard a future spacecraft.

The inner workings of the Mars 2020 rover are seen in this image of wiring in the belly of the spacecraft. Image: NASA

The Mars 2020’s electrical power will be supplied by a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator, or MMRTG, which will be housed at the back of the spacecraft in a slanted housing. The MMRTG also generates heat that will warm trichlorofluoromethane that will circulate through tubing to help keep sensitive systems warm during cold martian nights. The MMRTG, supplied by the U.S. Department of Energy, will be shipped to the Florida launch site for installation. Liftoff from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is targeted for July 17, 2020.

The nuclear power pack that will provide electricity and heat for the Mars 2020 rover will be mounted in the slanted housing at the rear of the spacecraft. Image: NASA





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