NASA has planned to launch its Mars 2020 rover next year sometime in July, however, it will not be the sole expedition to the red-coloured planet. There is another mission called the ExoMars programme, which is a joint venture between the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russian space agency Roscosmos, that is expected to launch sometime in between July 26-August 13 next year.
Both these rovers are largely going to be similar in terms of their overall mission except that ExoMars programme’s Rosalind Franklin rover will also primarily search for the existence of life on the neighbouring planet. Now, even though the launch is scheduled to take place almost a year from now, the Rosalind Franklin rover recently got equipped with a high-tech camera that will help it track the locations where there can be pieces of evidence of past or existing life.
The rover has named after the British scientist Rosalind Franklin and is a part of the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars programme. The rover is nearing its completion at the Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage, UK. According to an ESA statement, the rover has been recently added with a PanCam, which is placed on top of a mast that rises 2 m above the ground.
According to a report by CNN, the PanCam consists of three cameras, two wide-angle devices that takes panoramic images, and a filter wheel that enables them to image in 12 different wavelengths. There is also a high-resolution camera that takes further images in full color.
The PanCam will be fundamental in the day-to-day scientific operations of the Rosalind Franklin rover to assist with scientific decisions on where to drive and drill, the agency said. The PanCam, with its stereo and high-resolution cameras, will be providing detailed views of geologically interesting features in visible and near-infrared wavelengths. This, together with measurements made by the spectrometers, will tell what material the rocks are made of and if they were influenced by water in the past.
In select locations on the planet, the drill will be retrieving samples from up to 2 meters below the surface and deliver them to the onboard science laboratory for a detailed analysis to find the signs of biological signatures.
Once it is fully completed, ExoMars programme’s Rosalind Franklin rover will be shipped to Toulouse, France for a programme of environmental testing to prepare it for conditions in Mars. After this, it will be sent to Cannes, France for the final integration with the lander platform which is called Kazachok.
Over the years, Mars has always been a key planet of curiosity when it comes to extraterrestrial life.