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[JPL] NASA Announces Landing Site for Mars 2020 Rover
« dnia: Listopad 20, 2018, 17:26 »
NASA Announces Landing Site for Mars 2020 Rover
NOVEMBER 19, 2018

On ancient Mars, water carved channels and transported sediments to form fans and deltas within lake basins. Examination of spectral data acquired from orbit show that some of these sediments have minerals that indicate chemical alteration by water. Here in Jezero Crater delta, sediments contain clays and carbonates. The image combines information from two instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars and the Context Camera. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/JHU-APL

This Mars map depicts the final four locations under consideration for the landing site of Mars 2020. The topographic map of Mars was created by the Mars Orbital Laser Altimeter (MOLA) on board the robot Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. MOLA measured heights on Mars by precisely determining the time it took for a low power laser beam to bounce off the surface. Image Credit: NASA/MGS/MOLA Science Team

NASA has chosen Jezero Crater as the landing site for its upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission after a five-year search, during which details of more than 60 candidate locations on the Red Planet were scrutinized and debated by the mission team and the planetary science community.

The rover mission is scheduled to launch in July 2020 as NASA's next step in exploration of the Red Planet. It will not only seek signs of ancient habitable conditions - and past microbial life - but the rover also will collect rock and soil samples and store them in a cache on the planet's surface. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are studying future mission concepts to retrieve the samples and return them to Earth, so this landing site sets the stage for the next decade of Mars exploration.

Mars 2020 rover's new landing technique. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

"The landing site in Jezero Crater offers geologically rich terrain, with landforms reaching as far back as 3.6 billion years old, that could potentially answer important questions in planetary evolution and astrobiology," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate."Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life."

Jezero Crater is located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, a giant impact basin just north of the Martian equator. Western Isidis presents some of the oldest and most scientifically interesting landscapes Mars has to offer. Mission scientists believe the 28-mile-wide (45-kilometer-wide) crater, once home to an ancient river delta, could have collected and preserved ancient organic molecules and other potential signs of microbial life from the water and sediments that flowed into the crater billions of years ago.

Jezero Crater's ancient lake-delta system offers many promising sampling targets of at least five kinds of rock, including clays and carbonates that have high potential to preserve signatures of past life. In addition, the material carried into the delta from a large watershed may contain a wide variety of minerals from inside and outside the crater.

The geologic diversity that makes Jezero so appealing to Mars 2020 scientists also makes it a challenge for the team's entry, descent and landing (EDL) engineers. Along with the massive nearby river delta and small crater impacts, the site contains numerous boulders and rocks to the east, cliffs to the west and depressions filled with aeolian bedforms (wind-derived ripples in sand that could trap a rover) in several locations.

"The Mars community has long coveted the scientific value of sites such as Jezero Crater, and a previous mission contemplated going there, but the challenges with safely landing were considered prohibitive," said Ken Farley, project scientist for Mars 2020 at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "But what was once out of reach is now conceivable, thanks to the 2020 engineering team and advances in Mars entry, descent and landing technologies."

When the landing site search began, mission engineers already had refined the landing system such that they were able to reduce the Mars 2020 landing zone to an area 50 percent smaller than that for the landing of NASA's Curiosity rover at Gale Crater in 2012. This allowed the science community to consider more challenging landing sites. The sites of greatest scientific interest led NASA to add a new capability called Terrain Relative Navigation (TRN). TRN will enable the "sky crane" descent stage, the rocket-powered system that carries the rover down to the surface, to avoid hazardous areas.

The site selection is dependent upon extensive analyses and verification testing of the TRN capability. A final report will be presented to an independent review board and NASA Headquarters in the fall of 2019.

"Nothing has been more difficult in robotic planetary exploration than landing on Mars," said Zurbuchen. "The Mars 2020 engineering team has done a tremendous amount of work to prepare us for this decision. The team will continue its work to truly understand the TRN system and the risks involved, and we will review the findings independently to reassure we have maximized our chances for success."

Selecting a landing site this early allows the rover drivers and science operations team to optimize their plans for exploring Jezero Crater once the rover is safely on the ground. Using data from NASA's fleet of Mars orbiters, they will map the terrain in greater detail and identify regions of interest - places with the most interesting geological features, for example - where Mars 2020 could collect the best science samples.

The Mars 2020 Project at JPL manages rover development for SMD. NASA's Launch Services Program, based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management. Mars 2020 will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

For more information on Mars 2020, visit:

More information about NASA's exploration of Mars is available online at:

Source: NASA Announces Landing Site for Mars 2020 Rover

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Odp: [JPL] NASA Announces Landing Site for Mars 2020 Rover
« Odpowiedź #1 dnia: Listopad 20, 2018, 17:28 »
NASA selects landing site for Mars 2020 rover
by Jeff Foust — November 19, 2018 [SpaceNews]

The Mars 2020 rover will land in Jezero Crater, which once hosted a lake and river delta that may have preserved signs of past Martian life. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

WASHINGTON — NASA has chosen a Martian crater that once hosted a lake and river delta as the landing site for a mission that will collect samples for eventual return to Earth.

The agency announced Nov. 19 that it selected Jezero Crater as the landing site for the Mars 2020 rover mission. That spacecraft, scheduled for launch in July 2020 on an Atlas 5, will land in the 45-kilometer-wide crater in February 2021.

The selection of Jezero was the culmination of a review process that lasted more than four years, as scientists evaluated the benefits of prospective sites and engineers studied the ability to safely land in those regions. More than 60 sites were considered at the first in a series of landing site workshops in 2014, said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, during a call with reporters about the site selection.

By the time of the final site selection workshop, held in October, scientists had whittled down that list to four. In addition to Jezero was a nearby region, called Northeast Syrtis, which had ancient rocks of interest to scientists. A third site, called Midway, was so named because it was located between the two; it had rocks similar to those at Syrtis and was in driving range of Jezero. A fourth site, Columbia Hills, was first visited by the Spirit rover in 2003, but fell out of contention at the final workshop.

Jezero won out because of the prospects of finding biosignatures of past life there. The crater was home to a lake about 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago that was as deep as 250 meters, said Ken Farley, Mars 2020 project scientist. Images of the crater show the remnants of a delta from a river that flowed into the lake.

“This is a major attraction from our point of view,” he said. “The delta is a good place for evidence of life to be deposited and preserved for the billions of years that have elapsed since this lake was present.” That life, he said, could have lived in or around the lake, or existed further upstream and was washed down into the delta.

The region, he said, is also rich in carbonate rocks that can be another habitable environment, as well as preserving the conditions of that early Martian environment when they formed.

While Mars 2020 is based on the Curiosity rover, including using the same “skycrane” landing system, Mars 2020 will make use of a new technology called terrain relative navigation. That system, where the spacecraft takes images as it descends and compares them to a map to enable a more precise landing, allowed NASA to consider sites with more hazards.

Those hazards include, in the case of Jezero, fields of boulders, sand traps that would be difficult for the rover to drive out of, and the edges of the delta itself. “Scientists always want to see outcrops, which are boulders and cliffs, and the people who are responsible for landing the rover safely are trying very hard to avoid those things,” Farley said.

A final decision, though, is pending on the use of terrain relative navigation technology on Mars 2020. “This selection is dependent upon additional and extensive analysis” of the technology, said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science. A final report on the technology is due in the fall 2019 “to be absolutely sure that we’re ready to go with this exciting technology.”

Another pending decision is whether the rover will undertake an extended mission to leave Jezero Crater and travel to Midway, something many scientists advocated for at the final landing workshop. The focus of the mission is, for now, on just the prime mission at Jezero. “We want the team to focus on the prime mission,” Zurbuchen said. Once that prime mission is underway and the project team understands the capabilities of the rover, he added, “I’m sure there’s going to be discussions” about an extended mission.

Mars 2020, with an estimated total cost of a little less than $2.5 billion, is intended to be the first step in a multi-mission campaign to collect samples from Mars and return them to Earth. Mars 2020 will cache those samples for later missions to retrieve, launch into Mars orbit and then collect for transport to Earth.

NASA announced its concept for a “lean” sample return architecture in August 2017 that seeks to minimize the complexity and time for returning those samples. However, the agency has provided few specifics about how that would be implemented, although it announced earlier this year plans to jointly study Mars sample return options with the European Space Agency. “I don’t have any updates today” on that work, Zurbuchen said.

He did say that NASA was planning on launching the later elements of that sample return architecture in the late 2020s. “Depending on how the details come out, it would be in the early ’30s that the samples would come back to Earth,” he said.

Source: NASA selects landing site for Mars 2020 rover

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Odp: [JPL] NASA Announces Landing Site for Mars 2020 Rover
« Odpowiedź #2 dnia: Marzec 21, 2019, 11:12 »
NASA dealing with cost growth on planetary science flagship missions
by Jeff Foust — March 19, 2019 [SpaceNews]

Issues with two instruments and the sample caching system on Mars 2020 have increased its $2.4 billion cost by as much as 15 percent, NASA confirmed March 18. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

THE WOODLANDS, Texas — While NASA’s overall planetary sciences program is enjoying record funding levels, the agency is grappling with cost growth in two of its largest missions.

In its detailed fiscal year 2020 budget proposal published March 18, NASA confirmed that the Mars 2020 rover mission is facing growing costs just 16 months before its scheduled launch. The agency said problems with two instruments, the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry and Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals, as well as rover’s system for caching samples that will be returned to Earth by future missions, contributed to the cost growth.

There had been widespread rumors in the planetary science community that Mars 2020 was facing cost overruns, but the budget document is the first time NASA publicly acknowledged those overruns. The document didn’t disclose the size of the overrun but said that it “will report these changes in the pending [fiscal year] 2019 operating plan.”

“Yes, there has been cost growth” with Mars 2020, said Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA’s planetary sciences division, during a town hall meeting March 18 at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference here. “It is less than 15 percent over the agreed-upon cost for [Mars] 2020.”

NASA estimated the cost of Mars 2020 at $2.1 billion, plus $300 million for its first Martian year of operations, when the mission achieved a milestone known as Key Decision Point C in 2016. That would limit the cost growth to $360 million, although Glaze later declined to give a specific estimate for the increase in the mission’s cost. Cost growth above the 15 percent threshold would trigger requirements for congressional notification and replanning of the mission.

Glaze said NASA would avoid affecting planetary missions outside of the Mars program as it deals with the cost overrun. “There’s been a very strict approach in trying to look to the project first for economies, and find ways to cover some of the cost growth, and, outside of that, look to going to the Mars program,” she said. The goal is to have “the smallest impact possible to the overall planetary portfolio.”

She later told reporters that it was unlikely that NASA would take major steps, such as removing an instrument from Mars 2020, because of the limited savings that would offer at this late stage of development. “There’s already an enormous amount of hardware built and integrated and being tested for Mars 2020,” she said. Instead, she said the agency is looking at “small efficiencies” within Mars 2020 to reduce its cost, such as work that can be deferred.

Elsewhere in the Mars program, Glaze said NASA is considering “small decreases” in other operating missions as well as cost savings from the end of the Opportunity mission. NASA spent $12.5 million on Opportunity in fiscal year 2018. Other funding could come from the Mars Future Missions program line, which primarily supports planning for future Mars sample return missions. “We tried to spread it so that no one is feeling all of the pain,” she said.

During the town hall meeting, Glaze also faced questions about the decision NASA announced March 5 to remove one of the instruments from another flagship planetary science mission, Europa Clipper. NASA said it removed the Interior Characterization of Europa Using Magnetometry (ICEMAG) instrument, a magnetometer designed to measure the magnetic field around the icy moon of Jupiter, because of what Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, called “continued, significant cost growth and remaining high cost risk.”

During the question-and-answer portion of the town hall meeting, one scientist, Britney Schmidt of Georgia Tech, noted that ICEMAG was a major part of mission studies that led to Europa Clipper because of its ability to probe the interior of Europa and its subsurface ocean. She said there was a “large accommodation issue” created when NASA selected nine instruments for a mission that once planned to carry four or five, and wondered why NASA didn’t accept a scaled back or “descoped” version of the instrument proposed by the ICEMAG team rather than the agency’s plan to fly its own instrument.

Similar concerns came from the Outer Planets Assessment Group, an advisory panel that released “special findings” about ICEMAG March 13 outside of its usual cycle of meetings. “To those not involved in the process, this news came as a complete surprise,” the group said of the decision to remove ICEMAG. “We encourage NASA to ensure that this or any other termination decision is transparent, and avoid the perception that this [principal investigator]-led experiment team received a seemingly punitive decision that is disproportionate to the challenges faced by the team.”

Glaze said that cost alone was not the reason for removing ICEMAG. “The emphasis is not so much on the overall cost growth but on the other risks that were inherent in the design and the approach that was going forward,” she said. “Most of the concern had to do with the future risks and the fact that instrument was not stabilizing.”

The decision to remove ICEMAG, but not any of the Mars 2020 instruments, is based on Europa Clipper being in an earlier phase of development, she said. “Part of what we’re trying to do with the process that’s being implemented on Clipper is to try and not end up in the same position,” she said.

The challenges facing Europa Clipper and Mars 2020 stand in contrast to the rest of the planetary science program, which is enjoying funding growth. Congress provided the program with nearly $2.76 billion in the final fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill, an amount Glaze said she believed to be a record for the program. The administration’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal requests slightly less for planetary science, at $2.62 billion.

Glaze told reporters that, even with its larger budgets, NASA wants to be conscious about keeping cost growth for its largest missions in check, an issue raised by advisory groups like the National Academies. “The intent here is that NASA is taking the National Academies’ direction seriously,” she said. “In the future, when we build large missions, large flagship missions, we want to take those seriously.”


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Odp: [JPL] NASA Announces Landing Site for Mars 2020 Rover
« Odpowiedź #3 dnia: Kwiecień 02, 2019, 23:51 »
NASA's Mars Helicopter Completes Flight Tests
MARCH 28, 2019 [JPL]

Members of NASA's Mars Helicopter team attach a thermal film enclosure to the fuselage of the flight model (the actual vehicle going to the Red Planet). The image was taken on Feb. 1, 2019, inside the Space Simulator, a 25-foot-wide (7.62-meter-wide) vacuum chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech 

Since the Wright brothers first took to the skies of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, Dec. 17, 1903, first flights have been important milestones in the life of any vehicle designed for air travel. After all, it's one thing to design an aircraft and make it fly on paper - or computer. It is quite another to put all the pieces together and watch them get off the ground.

In late January 2019, all the pieces making up the flight model (actual vehicle going to the Red Planet) of NASA's Mars Helicopter were put to the test.

Weighing in at no more than 4 pounds (1.8 kilograms), the helicopter is a technology demonstration project currently going through the rigorous verification process certifying it for Mars.

The majority of the testing the flight model is going through had to do with demonstrating how it can operate on Mars, including how it performs at Mars-like temperatures. Can the helicopter survive - and function - in cold temperatures, including nights with temperatures as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 90 degrees Celsius)?

All this testing is geared towards February 2021, when the helicopter will reach the surface of the Red Planet, firmly nestled under the belly of the Mars 2020 rover. A few months later, it will be deployed and test flights (up to 90 seconds long) will begin - the first from the surface of another world.

"Gearing up for that first flight on Mars, we have logged over 75 minutes of flying time with an engineering model, which was a close approximation of our helicopter," said MiMi Aung, project manager for the Mars Helicopter at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "But this recent test of the flight model was the real deal. This is our helicopter bound for Mars. We needed to see that it worked as advertised."

While flying helicopters is commonplace here on Earth, flying hundreds of millions of miles (kilometers) away in the thin Martian atmosphere is something else entirely. And creating the right conditions for testing here on Earth presents its own set of challenges.

"The Martian atmosphere is only about one percent the density of Earth's," said Aung. "Our test flights could have similar atmospheric density here on Earth - if you put your airfield 100,000 feet (30,480 meters) up. So you can't go somewhere and find that. You have to make it."

Aung and her Mars Helicopter team did just that in JPL's Space Simulator, a 25-foot-wide (7.62-meter-wide) vacuum chamber. First, the team created a vacuum that sucks out all the nitrogen, oxygen and other gases from the air inside the mammoth cylinder. In their place the team injected carbon dioxide, the chief ingredient of Mars' atmosphere.

"Getting our helicopter into an extremely thin atmosphere is only part of the challenge," said Teddy Tzanetos, test conductor for the Mars Helicopter at JPL. "To truly simulate flying on Mars we have to take away two-thirds of Earth's gravity, because Mars' gravity is that much weaker."

The team accomplished this with a gravity offload system - a motorized lanyard attached to the top of the helicopter to provide an uninterrupted tug equivalent to two-thirds of Earth's gravity. While the team was understandably concerned with how the helicopter would fare on its first flight, they were equally concerned with how the gravity offload system would perform.

"The gravity offload system performed perfectly, just like our helicopter," said Tzanetos. "We only required a 2-inch (5-centimeter) hover to obtain all the data sets needed to confirm that our Mars helicopter flies autonomously as designed in a thin Mars-like atmosphere; there was no need to go higher. It was a heck of a first flight."

The Mars Helicopter's first flight was followed up by a second in the vacuum chamber the following day. Logging a grand total of one minute of flight time at an altitude of 2 inches (5 centimeters), more than 1,500 individual pieces of carbon fiber, flight-grade aluminum, silicon, copper, foil and foam have proven that they can work together as a cohesive unit.

"The next time we fly, we fly on Mars," said Aung. "Watching our helicopter go through its paces in the chamber, I couldn't help but think about the historic vehicles that have been in there in the past. The chamber hosted missions from the Ranger Moon probes to the Voyagers to Cassini, and every Mars rover ever flown. To see our helicopter in there reminded me we are on our way to making a little chunk of space history as well."

The Mars Helicopter project at JPL in Pasadena, California, manages the helicopter development for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The Mars Helicopter will launch as a technology demonstrator with the Mars 2020 rover on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in July 2020 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. It is expected to reach Mars in February 2021.

The 2020 rover will conduct geological assessments of its landing site on Mars, determine the habitability of the environment, search for signs of ancient Martian life, and assess natural resources and hazards for future human explorers. Scientists will use the instruments aboard the rover to identify and collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in sealed tubes, and leave them on the planet's surface for potential return to Earth on a future Mars mission.

The Mars 2020 project at JPL in Pasadena, California, manages rover development for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. NASA's Launch Services Program, based at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for launch management.

For more information about NASA's Mars missions, go to: