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NASA’s Mars 2020 rover undergoes ‘eye’ exam as it gets ready for mission

NASA's Mars 2020 rover, which is set to be launched next year, recently underwent an 'eye' examination following the installation of several cameras into it.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 7, 2019 9:53:01 am
nasa, Mars 2020, NASA rover eye exam, NASA Mars 2020 updates, Mars 2020 rover, nasa mars 2020 rover, mars 2020 In this image, NASA engineers test the cameras on the top of the Mars 2020 rover’s mast and front chassis. (Image source: NASA)

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which is set to launch next year, recently underwent an ‘eye’ examination following the installation of several cameras into it. The eye exam in case of the Mars rover is actually testing of the cameras and the cameras tested were the two Navcams (navigation cameras), four Hazcams (Hazard cameras), a SuperCam and two Mastcam-Z.

The Mars 2020 rover is yet to be named and previously NASA had released a video of it doing a ‘bicep curl,’ that went viral.  According to NASA’s press statement, ‘the eye’ exam is to check the capabilities of the cameras on board.

The Mars rover has several wide-angle landscape and narrow-angle high-resolution zoom lens cameras. NASA has completed the calibration of the forward-facing cameras on the rover. The cameras will be crucial in this NASA mission as the Mars 2020 rover will be examining Martian rocks and collecting samples for the US space agency.

Mars 2020 rover is a long-term robotic mission. The idea is to have to have some of these samples sent back to Earth for further examination. The rover is expected to land on the red planet by 2021. NASA’s eventual plan is to put humans on Mars and the rover missions will help in future preparations.

The eye examination is just part of the many checks that will be conducted on the Mars 2020 rover before the scheduled take off. According to Justin Maki, Chief Engineer for Imaging and the Imaging Scientist for Mars 2020 at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the vehicle needs accurate ‘stereo vision’.

“We tested every camera on the front of the rover chassis and also those mounted on the mast. Characterizing the geometric alignment of all these imagers is important for driving the vehicle on Mars, operating the robotic arm and accurately targeting the rover’s laser,” he said in a statement.

In order to test the cameras, the Mars 2020 rover team relies on target boards with grids of dots and were placed at a distance which ranges from 1-44 yards (or 1-40 meters) away. The target boards were used for confirming that the cameras met NASA’s requirements for resolution and geometric accuracy.

Cameras on the back of the rover’s body and on the turret at the end of the rover’s arm will undergo a similar calibration in the coming weeks. NASA also explained what each camera will do on the Mars 2020 rover.

Also Read| NASA’s GLIMR space instrument to study coastal ecosystems

Mars 2020 rover: Cameras and what they will do

The Navcams ( or navigation cameras) are mounted on the remote sensing mast of the Mars 2020 rover. These will capture panoramic 3D image data that will support route planning for the rover’s next steps. They will also help in planning robotic-arm operations, drilling and sample acquisition.

The rover also with Hazcams (or hazard-avoidance cameras) and these will work with the navigation cameras. The Hazcams are placed on the lower portion of the Mars 2020 rover’s chassis. They will provide a complementary view of the terrain to ensure that the rover does not crashing into unexpected obstacles or gets lost.

The SuperCam will be examining rocks and soil on the red planet, looking for organic compounds which could be related to past life on Mars. The two Mastcam-Z high-resolution cameras will be working together as a multispectral, stereoscopic imaging instrument to boost the rover’s driving and core-sampling capabilities.

These cameras will allow the science team members to observe the details in rocks and sediment across any location within the field of view of the rover.

NASA says that it will use Mars 2020 and other missions, including to the Moon, to prepare for human exploration of Mars. The space agency intends to establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

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