Nasa reveals its Mars 2020 rover will have 23 ‘eyes’

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  • The 23 cameras are being developed by Nasa experts in Pasadena, California
  • The cameras include more colour and 3-D imaging than on the Curiosity rover
  • Nasa hopes the cameras will be used to create panoramas, reveal obstacles, study the atmosphere and assist science instruments during the mission

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In the hope of finding life on Mars during its 2020 mission, Nasa has revealed that its new rover will have 23 cameras.

The cameras, which Nasa refers to as ‘eyes’, will be used to create sweeping panoramas, reveal obstacles, study the atmosphere and assist science instruments during the mission.

Nasa hopes its multi-eyed rover will also help to capture the first images of a parachute as it opens on another planet.

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In the hopes of findings life on Mars during its 2020 mission, Nasa has revealed that its new rover will have 23 cameras (artist's impression pictured)

In the hopes of findings life on Mars during its 2020 mission, Nasa has revealed that its new rover will have 23 cameras (artist's impression pictured)

In the hopes of findings life on Mars during its 2020 mission, Nasa has revealed that its new rover will have 23 cameras (artist’s impression pictured)

MARS 2020 MISSION 

The Mars 2020 mission is part of Nasa’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort of robotic exploration of the red planet.

Nasa hopes the mission will help to answer key questions about the potential for life on Mars.  

The mission also provides opportunities to gather knowledge and demonstrate technologies that address the challenges of future human expeditions to Mars, including producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, and identifying water.

The mission is timed for a launch in July/August 2020 when Earth and Mars are in good positions relative to each other for landing on Mars.  

The futuristic cameras are being built by experts at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Justin Maki, Mars 2020’s imaging scientist, said: ‘Camera technology keeps improving.

‘Each successive mission is able to utilise these improvements, with better performance and lower cost.’

The cameras on 2020 will include more colour and 3D imaging than on the Curiosity rover, which is currently exploring the red planet.

Among the cameras is the Mastcam-Z – a stereoscopic camera that can support 3D images, and will be used to examine geological features from long distances.

Mr Jim Bell, principal investigator for 2020’s Mastcam-Z, said: ‘Routinely using 3-D images at high resolution could pay off in a big way.

‘They’re useful for both long-range and near-field science targets.’

While Curiosity does have engineering cameras, the images produced by these are only 1-megapixel, and in black and white.

But on the new 2020 rover, the engineering cameras have been upgraded to acquire high-resolution, 20-megapixel colour images, with a wider field of view.

Amongst the cameras is the Mastcam-Z – a stereoscopic camera that can support 3D images, and will be used to examine geological features from long distances (artist's impression)

Amongst the cameras is the Mastcam-Z – a stereoscopic camera that can support 3D images, and will be used to examine geological features from long distances (artist's impression)

Amongst the cameras is the Mastcam-Z – a stereoscopic camera that can support 3D images, and will be used to examine geological features from long distances (artist’s impression)

CAMERAS ON THE ROVER 

Some of the 23 cameras include: 

Pictured is one of the enhanced engineering cameras that will feature on the 2020 rover

Pictured is one of the enhanced engineering cameras that will feature on the 2020 rover

Pictured is one of the enhanced engineering cameras that will feature on the 2020 rover

Enhanced Engineering Cameras: Colour, higher resolution and wider fields of view than Curiosity’s engineering cameras

Mastcam-Z: An improved version of Curiosity’s MASTCAM with a 3:1 zoom lens

SuperCam Remote Micro-Imager (RMI): The highest-resolution remote imager will have colour, a change from the imager that flew with Curiosity’s ChemCam

CacheCam: Will watch as rock samples are deposited into the rover’s body

Entry, descent and landing cameras: Six cameras will record the entry, descent and landing process, providing the first video of a parachute opening on another planet

Lander Vision System Camera: Will use computer vision to guide the landing, using a new technology called terrain relative navigation

SkyCam: A suite of weather instruments will include a sky-facing camera for studying clouds and the atmosphere

Colin McKinney, product delivery manager for the new engineering cameras said: ‘Our previous Navcams would snap multiple pictures and stitch them together.

‘With the wider field of view, we get the same perspective in one shot.’

The cameras are also able to reduce motion blur, so they can take photos while the rover is on the move.

On the new 2020 rover, the engineering cameras have been upgraded to acquire high-resolution, 20-megapixel colour images, with a wider field of view

On the new 2020 rover, the engineering cameras have been upgraded to acquire high-resolution, 20-megapixel colour images, with a wider field of view

On the new 2020 rover, the engineering cameras have been upgraded to acquire high-resolution, 20-megapixel colour images, with a wider field of view

The key challenge that Nasa will face with the camera upgrades is beaming more data through space. Pictured is an artist's impression of the rover

The key challenge that Nasa will face with the camera upgrades is beaming more data through space. Pictured is an artist's impression of the rover

The key challenge that Nasa will face with the camera upgrades is beaming more data through space. Pictured is an artist’s impression of the rover

The key challenge that Nasa will face with the camera upgrades is beaming more data through space.

Mr Maki said: ‘The limiting factor in most imaging systems is the telecommunications link. Cameras are capable of acquiring much more data than can be sent back to Earth.’

To address this issue, Nasa plans to use orbiting spacecraft as data relays, including the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, and the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter. 

HOW TO MAKE OXYGEN ON MARS

Nasa plans to use the red planet’s own atmosphere to create oxygen when it lands for the Mars 2020 mission.

Nasa first came up with the plan in 2014 when it first unveiled the Mars 2020 Rover.

The process will use an MIT device called MOXIE and entails transporting microbial life – such as bacteria or algae – from Earth to Mars.

The organisms would then use Martian soil as fuel to pump out oxygen, which could then be harvested and used for breathing.

A look at MOXIE, the MIT device that will be used to create oxygen on Mars. While it's already been proven to work in labs, Nasa will test the process during the Mars 2020 mission

A look at MOXIE, the MIT device that will be used to create oxygen on Mars. While it's already been proven to work in labs, Nasa will test the process during the Mars 2020 mission

A look at MOXIE, the MIT device that will be used to create oxygen on Mars. While it’s already been proven to work in labs, Nasa will test the process during the Mars 2020 mission

It works using a reverse fuel cell technique, in which electricity produced by a separate machine would be combined with carbon dioxide from the Martian air to produce oxygen and carbon monoxide in a process called solid oxide electrolysis.

It would eliminate the need to send liquid oxygen stores to Mars. 

Additionally, it could also be used to make rocket fuel foe return flights back to Earth, offsetting what would be one of the biggest costs of transferring humans back to earth. 

Lab experiments have already shown it’s possible.