“The rover was designed with heritage from the Mars Science Laboratory,
or Curiosity Rover,” explains Luther Beegle of NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, California. However, changes will be made to the
payload, in addition to the sample handling system that will be redesigned
for the collection of Martian samples.
Ken Farley of the California Institute of Technology is the project's mission
scientist responsible for assuring the success of the mission, a success
that is directly correlated to defining the requirements of the spacecraft, of
which there are four.
The first objective is to explore the geology of the landing site, an area to
be determined by the second objective’s requirements, which is to explore
an environment that may have been conducive to life in the distant past.
“We have a set of tools that will allow us to understand the geological
setting,” explains Farley, but the site will most-likely be identified from
The third objective is to prepare a cache of samples for possible return
to earth for analysis in terrestrial laboratories at a future date. The last will
be to demonstrate technologies that will be integral for the future human
exploration of Mars.
To accomplish these objectives, the team already has a head start, building off of the MSL's platform. "It is an enormous economic savings not
having to reinvent everything," says Farley.
But while some of the instruments have already been validated to work in
Martian conditions, as they are derived from instruments that are currently
on the MSL, others will require testing in chambers at the appropriate temperatures and pressures. “It’s a very complex procedure to demonstrate
that the instruments will work appropriately,” says Farley.
Working to develop one of these new instruments, the team at NASA’s
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) relies on a set of design principles they
have developed in-house. "We always call them the JPL design principles,
although they might have an official name," says Beegle.
Short for Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and
Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals, SHERLOC is being designed
with these principles.
Looking for Clues
SHERLOC is a spectrometer that uses an ultraviolet laser to detect organic
compounds and determine fine-scale mineralogy. It will be the first of its
kind to search Mars
for signs of previ-
ous life, and is the
smallest deep UV
er of its type to
ever be developed.
The team at JPL
will be developing
three different units
of the instrument.
The iterations will
include a laboratory prototype
that can simulate
By Melissa Fassbender, Editor
In 2020, a new rover will and on Mars. Equipped with an updated set of scientific
instruments, the Mars 2020 Rover
will be the first to document
samples for future return to Earth.
The Mars Space Laboratory (MSL)
on Mars (top), and a blueprint of
the new Mars 2020 Rover (right).