- Title: NASA's new rover all set to look for ancient life on Mars
- Date: 27th December 2019
- Summary: PASADENA, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (DECEMBER 27, 2019) (REUTERS) PAN FROM PEOPLE IN WHITE SUITS TO DEPUTY PROJECT MANAGER, MATT WALLACE (SOUNDBITE) (English) DEPUTY PROJECT MANAGER, MATT WALLACE, SAYING: "The trick, though, is that we're looking for trace levels of chemicals from billions of years ago on Mars. This is a signal that's way down on what we call the noise floor, and to find those parts per billion chemical signatures, we believe we have to collect those samples and prepare them for return back to the Earth and really apply the full capability of terrestrial laboratories and universities and scientists to understand what we're looking at, yeah."
- Embargoed: 10th January 2020 23:48
- Keywords: Mars Mars Rover NASA Space
- Location: PASADENA, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES; UNIDENTIFIED FILMING LOCATIONS
- City: PASADENA, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES; UNIDENTIFIED FILMING LOCATIONS
- Country: USA
- Topics: Science,Space Exploration
- Reuters ID: LVA003BBR29MV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: NASA's latest unnamed Mars rover, which is due to launch in July 2020 for the red planet, was shown off to media on Friday (December 27) under very strict guidelines.
No woolen items of clothing could be used, nor any make-up or perfume and members of the press were put in the same white suits worn by the NASA engineers on the project.
"We're trying to find past signs of life," said Cruise Stage engineer, Chris Chatellier. "We don't want to find something we bring obviously so we need to make sure we're not bringing bacteria and stuff that could survive the flight to Mars and thrive in that atmosphere. We don't want to find that. Also, in terms of putting things together, we've found that small, small particles can cause big problems so you want to make sure you have as little contamination as possible," he added.
The rover, which at the press event was split into three sections - the rover, the cruise stage (space flight), and descent stage (landing), is being sent to the Jezero Crater on Mars, which is believed to have been the bed of a lake the size of Lake Tahoe. There it will extract samples from the dried-out bed to see if life existed at one point on Mars.
"The trick, though, is that we're looking for trace levels of chemicals from billions of years ago on Mars," said deputy project manager, Matt Wallace, adding "This is a signal that's way down on what we call the noise floor and to find those parts per billion chemical signatures, we believe we have to collect those samples and prepare them for return back to the Earth and really apply the full ability of terrestrial laboratories and universities and scientists to understand what we're looking at."
The rover mission is part one of a two-part mission, which will see the samples returned to Earth.
"Once we have a sufficient set (of samples), we'll put them down on the ground and another mission, which we hope to launch in 2026, will come, land on the surface, will collect those samples and put them into a rocket, basically," said Wallace.
However, the rover isn't just designed to find ancient life. It will also explore the geology of the crater area but more importantly, it will test out technological materials and applications that could at one point see humans on Mars' surface.
"We're going to make oxygen on the surface of Mars," said Wallace, adding "We're bringing a small helicopter drone, which will give us an aerial reconnaissance capability. When we land at Jezero, we're going to use a new landing capability that gives us a hazard avoidance function that allows us to land safely which future missions, human missions, can also take advantage of."
The rover is set to be named in early 2020 following an exhaustive competition by NASA. The previous four rovers have been called Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity.
Referring to the three vehicles in the clean room, Wallace said "We're just about to ship these down to Kennedy in the second week of February then we'll reassemble the whole thing, integrate ultimately with the upper stage of the launch vehicle, get to the pad and get the rocket lit."
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