The ul­ti­mate all-ter­rain ve­hi­cle is out of this world.

Cu­rios­ity Mk II to be even bet­ter

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - ALWYN VILJOEN

THE ul­ti­mate of­froad ve­hi­cle is out of this world — lit­er­ally.

It is a Mars rover called Cu­rios­ity — Nasa’s car-sized, sixwheeled, one-ton ra­dioiso­tope­pow­ered ex­ploratory ve­hi­cle that has been analysing the red planet since Au­gust 2012.

Nasa said it is now build­ing a face-lift model to join the age­ing Mars Rover in Fe­bru­ary 2021.

The Mars 2020 rover will in­ves­ti­gate a re­gion of Mars where the an­cient en­vi­ron­ment may have been fa­vor­able for mi­cro­bial life, prob­ing the Mar­tian rocks for ev­i­dence of past life.

Through­out its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it will col­lect sam­ples of soil and rock and cache them on the sur­face for po­ten­tial re­turn to Earth by a fu­ture mis­sion.

“The Mars 2020 rover is the first step in a po­ten­tial mul­ti­mis­sion cam­paign to re­turn care­fully se­lected and sealed sam­ples of Mar­tian rocks and soil to Earth,” said Ge­of­frey Yo­der, act­ing as­so­ciate ad­min­is­tra­tor of Nasa’s Sci­ence Mis­sion Direc­torate in Wash­ing­ton.

“This mis­sion marks a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone in Nasa’s Jour­ney to Mars — to de­ter­mine whether life has ever ex­isted on Mars, and to ad­vance our goal of send­ing hu­mans to the Red Planet,” he said.

To re­duce risk and pro­vide cost sav­ings, the 2020 rover will look much like its pre­de­ces­sor, Cu­rios­ity, but with an ar­ray of new sci­ence in­stru­ments and en­hance­ments to ex­plore Mars as never be­fore.

The Mars 2020 rover will use the same sky crane land­ing sys­tem as Cu­rios­ity, but will have the abil­ity to land in more chal­leng­ing ter­rain with two en­hance­ments, mak­ing more rugged sites el­i­gi­ble as safe land­ing can­di­dates.

Ter­rain-rel­a­tive nav­i­ga­tion on the new rover will use on­board anal­y­sis of down­ward-look­ing images taken dur­ing de­scent, match­ing them to a map that in­di­cates zones des­ig­nated un­safe for land­ing.


Erisa Hines, a driver for the Mars Cu­rios­ity rover (shown), talks about the new Rover be­ing built to ex­plore new parts of Mars.

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