NASA plans to land the Mars rover Curiosity on Mars in 2024 to continue the search for life on the Red Planet.
That means NASA is going to have to land its robotic rovers on the planet and that means they have to have a lot of people onboard, said Rob Navias, Mars program manager at NASA Headquarters.
Navias said he hopes to use the rovers as a way to explore the Martian surface, and get some kind of scientific data back.
Navies said NASA is working on ways to use rovers to look for signs of past life, like traces of organic compounds in the rocks that might indicate past life.
But that’s not what Curiosity is about.
“Mars is a world that we’re going to explore,” Navias told CBC News.
“We’re going back and forth to find out if there’s life in the surface and to find some way to characterize that life.”
But Curiosity is also designed to get a lot out of the rover.
NASA says Curiosity has been roving on the surface of Mars for five years, so the roving can get quite a bit out of Curiosity and its instruments.
NASA hopes Curiosity will get samples from the Red Mars surface and send back some scientific data.
The rover is already in the area where NASA is using its rovers, Navias added.
Curiosity is looking for signs that life might have existed on the Martian ground in the past, like clues to how the surface was formed and how water and gas were transported to Mars.
“The idea is to be able to collect that data and bring that back to Earth,” Navies told CBC’s As It Happens.
“That’s why we’re using rovers.”
Navias says NASA has already begun exploring the Martian poles to try and see if the rover can collect samples there.
The first rovers have been testing out the rover’s instruments, and they will be in the final stages of testing in 2020, he said.
“Right now we’re just looking at the surface area, but we’re also doing the rowing, so that’s how we’ll start the roping down the rosettes,” he said, referring to the roped-down sections of the robotic arm that get a little bit of traction and a little less drag on landing.
Navios said the goal is to have all the roved parts in place in 2020.
“So there’s no risk of the landing being lost,” he added.
The rovers are also carrying cameras and a laser-detecting drill.
Navics said NASA expects to use its roving rovers in the coming years to explore other areas of Mars.
That includes looking at water and ice and how it forms, and to learn about the atmosphere and the chemistry of Mars and its environment.
“If we have the data to back it up, then we can go back and look at other locations on the other planets,” Navics added.
But Navias cautioned that NASA doesn’t have all of the technology that it needs. “
For example, if we have a rover on Mars, and we can measure the water in the water column, then there is an opportunity to do studies on the atmosphere, on the geology, on what is the geochemical history of the Martian environment.”
But Navias cautioned that NASA doesn’t have all of the technology that it needs.
“I think what we have is not ready,” he told CBC.
“There are some things that we are still doing.
Navios is optimistic that the roves will be able, when they land on Mars on the date NASA has set for them, to gather a lot to learn. “
Some of the things that will happen in the next decade or two are going to be very exciting, but that’s something that we’ll have to work with our partners on.”
Navios is optimistic that the roves will be able, when they land on Mars on the date NASA has set for them, to gather a lot to learn.
“When you land on a planet like Mars, you want to collect all of those samples, and you want them all to be right, and everything is right,” Navys said.
NASA is expecting to have rovers around Mars for more than a decade, so getting the instruments on Mars is a huge challenge, but Navias thinks the rovings will work out well.
“These rovers were designed for the kind of conditions that we will encounter on Mars,” he explained.
“This is going be an exciting mission.”