Installation of SuperCam Mast Unit on Mars 2020 rover is a towering success

mars 2020 supercam mast unit pia23307 16 1
In this image taken June 25, 2019, engineers install the SuperCam instrument on Mars 2020’s rover. This image was taken in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Mars 2020 rover reached another milestone this week, when technicians installed its mast, the SuperCam Mast Unit. The rover already has its wheels and a robotic arm, and the next step was to add the mast.

The rover’s camera, laser, and spectrometers were installed as part of the mast unit, which is the central spire coming out of the middle of the rover and into the air, onto which instruments which require a longer view are placed. The cameras and other instruments included on the mast are capable of accurately identifying the chemical and mineral makeups of environmental targets from a distance. In fact, they can identify a target the size of a pencil point from a distance of more than 20 feet (6 meters).

“SuperCam’s rock-zapping laser allows scientists to analyze the chemical composition of its targets,” Soren Madsen, the payload development manager at JPL, explained in a statement. “It lets the Mars 2020 rover conduct its cutting-edge science from a distance.”

The suite of instruments is an updated version of the ChemCam aboard the Curiosity rover, which is used to image and examine objects from the Martian surface like rocks and other samples. The new SuperCam will perform the same tasks, analyzing rocks and soil, and in particular searching for organic compounds that could show if there was life on Mars at some point in the distant past.

The development of SuperCam was an international effort, with contributions from the U.S., France, and Spain. Construction of the last piece of hardware was completed in France before it was shipped to JPL’s facility in California for final assembly.

“SuperCam has come a long way from being a bold and ambitious idea to an actual instrument,” Sylvestre Maurice, the SuperCam deputy principal investigator at the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie in Toulouse, France, said in the same statement. “While it still has a long way to go — all the way to Mars — this is a great day for not only SuperCam but the amazing consortium that put it together.”

Cars

The evolution of NASA’s moon buggy is even wilder than where it landed

In 1971, NASA launched the first car to go to the moon. They also sent astronauts to drive it. The further you dig into their design, the more amazing the rovers, which still reside on the moon, become.
Cars

Polaris builds Lunar Rover Vehicle replica with Indian, Slingshot, and RZR parts

Polaris Industries employees worked with a NASA astronaut and members of the original Apollo 11 Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV) team to build a replica of the vehicle that landed on the moon. Most of the parts came from current Polaris vehicles.
Emerging Tech

Could Mars’ now-barren Gale Crater lake have once supported life?

The Gale Crater is the site of an ancient lake which existed for millions of years. But even after the lake disappeared, groundwater could have remained for billions of years. Now, a team of scientists is searching for clues of life there.
Emerging Tech

Mars 2020 rover enters its final year of engineering before launch

The countdown has begun for the last year of development before the Mars 2020 launches between July 17, 2020 and August 5, 2020. Progress on finalizing the rover is right on track, according to NASA.
Emerging Tech

Harvard University has a bold new plan to make Mars livable for humans

Want to live on Mars? Harvard researchers have a bold new way to make it happen. Their plan involves covering portions of Mars with an insulating aerogel. Here's why it could work.
Emerging Tech

China’s space station, Tiangong-2, has burned up in the atmosphere

China's space station, Tiangong-2, has burned up in the Earth's atmosphere as part of a planned deorbit. It was originally scheduled to be in space for two or three years, but it survived longer than expected and spent 1,000 days in space.
Emerging Tech

How re-engineering an old technology could give us EVs with 700 miles of range

Battery supply has been a critical limiting factor in electric vehicle adoption. Now Portland-based XNRGI has developed a battery based on old silicon wafer technology, and it could revolutionize the battery industry.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Artemis capsule is complete, will carry the first woman to the moon

The crew capsule which will carry American astronauts to the moon as part of the Artemis project has been completed. The completion of the Artemis 1 capsule was announced by Vice President Mike Pence.
Emerging Tech

Three new astronauts join the International Space Station crew for Expedition 60

Exactly fifty years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon, a new team of astronauts from NASA, Roscosmos, and ESA have arrived at the International Space Station to begin their stay there.
Emerging Tech

Parrot retires its mini-drones to focus on its Anafi quadcopter

Parrot is retiring its mini-drones to focus on developing its more advanced Anafi drone for the commercial market. The company recently won a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a drone for use in combat.
Emerging Tech

Jetpack pilot flies around Sydney Harbour and stays dry, unlike before

Ten years ago, a jetpack demonstration by Aussie entrepreneur David Mayman saw him end up in Sydney Harbour, but on Sunday he returned with a far more sophisticated design that this time kept him dry.
Emerging Tech

Space tourism is coming, and it’s going to wreak havoc on Earth’s atmosphere

NASA has announced it will be allowing tourists to visit the International Space Station. But experts who spoke to Digital Trends warn that space tourism could hurt the environment by damaging our planet's fragile ozone layer.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop pod race sees German team zoom to victory (again)

A German team of student engineers has come first in the latest Hyperloop pod speed contest in California. The team's design reached 288 mph (463 kph) along a straight, three-quarter-mile test track, beating three rival teams.
Cars

Toyota shows off mascot robots and tiny autonomous car for Tokyo Olympics

Toyota has shown off seven robots that it says will assist and entertain during the Tokyo Olympics next summer. The collection includes mascot and telepresence robots, as well as a tiny autonomous car to help during field events.