NASA's new Mars Rover model is packed with some amazing planetary tools

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Aug 1, 2014, 10:34 AM EDT (Updated)

Think your shiny new car has some fancy factory features?   Run down the roster of sweet scientific toys on NASA's latest planetary project, the Mars 2020 Rover.  The incredible array of instruments and gear will be used to help determine how future explorers will work and survive in the planet's harsh, barren environment while attempting to exploit its natural resources.  

Following the success of the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, a main priority will be to collect and assess data centering on a search for ancient life on Mars, as well as gather and store rock and soil samples for examination by another mission in the future.  From ground-penetrating radar and UV lasers, to mineralogy spectrometers and organic compound imaging systems, the spiffy new super-rover will be packing the latest hi-tech devices to boost our space program's base of knowledge about our mysterious rust-colored neighbor.

Here's a rundown of just what this fully loaded edition of the Curiosity rover will contain: 

Mastcam-Z: An advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability with the ability to zoom. The instrument will also establish the minerals found in Mars’ surface, and help with rover operations. 

SuperCam: An instrument that provides imaging, chemical composition analysis and mineralogy. It will also be able to locate organic compounds in rocks, from a distance. 

Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL): An X-ray fluorescence spectrometer with a built-in high-resolution imager than can determine the fine scale elemental composition of Martian surface materials. PIXL will make it easier to make detailed detection and analysis of chemical elements than ever before. 

 Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC): A spectrometer that offers fine-scale imaging and uses an ultraviolet (UV) laser to detect minerals and compounds. 

The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE): An exploration technology that will produce oxygen from carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. 

Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyser (MEDA): A set of sensors that provide measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity and dust size and shape. 

The Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Exploration (RIMFAX): A ground-penetrating radar that provides centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.

In addition to its seven top-shelf accessories, this Mars mobile laboratory will be powered by an advanced adioisotrope generator that gives the rover an operating life span of at least a full Martian year, equaling 687 days on Earth. This new rover uses the same body and sky-crane landing system as the current Curiosity rover that landed on Mars last August.  

Scientists are particularly interested in the samples so they can understand the hazards posed by Martian dust and demonstrate how oxygen can be created -- details important to consider for human missions to Mars and the future colonization of the planet.  The rover marks the next major step in fulfilling President Obama's challenge of sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.  

 So, ready to rock the Red Planet, or should we set our sights somewhere else in our solar system? 

(Via Daily Mail UK)

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