It might be another decade or two until NASA tries to send astronauts to Mars, but the U.S. space agency is gearing up for a brand new rover mission in 2020 — and it’ll be the most wired trip yet.
Space reports NASA’s 2020 rover will be packed with special microphones and cameras designed to capture the craft’s descent and landing on the Red Planet in 2021. The project’s deputy manager Matthew Wallace said the mission is poised to “produce some of the most exciting imagery I think a planetary mission has ever provided.” Though it’ll obviously be awesome to literally watch (and hear!) what it’s like to land on Mars, NASA isn’t just doing this because it’s awesome (though it is).
The six-wheeled rover’s landing will mimic the approach used for Curiosity in 2012, using a parachute and rocket-powered “sky-crane” to lower itself. The high-tech cameras and mics will provide the best look yet at exactly how a landing works, and the different variables, ranging from weight to the atmospheric effects. Scientists hope to use the data to improve and perfect the landing mechanisms for future missions, which can critically improve the changes for success.
But these high-tech microphones will still be useful long after the new rover is kicking around on the Martian surface. NASA plans to use the mics to record the sounds of Mars, from the wind blowing to the rover’s tools working.