NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover Will Have 23 Cameras (Astronomy / Mission / Science and Technology)

According to NASA, the agency’s next Mars rover will have more cameras than any rover before it: a grand total of 23, to create sweeping panoramas, reveal obstacles, study the atmosphere, and assist science instruments. There will even be a camera inside the rover’s body, which will study samples as they’re stored and left on the surface for collection by a future mission.

Fig: This artist’s concept depicts NASA’s Mars 2020 rover on the surface of the Red Planet. The mission takes the next step by not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself. The rover introduces a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside on the surface of Mars. A future mission could potentially return these samples to Earth. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

Mars 2020 rover’s cameras represent a steady progression since NASA’s Mars Pathfinder rover: after that mission, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers were designed with 10 cameras each, including on their landers; Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover has 17.

Fig: A selection of the 23 cameras on NASA’s 2020 Mars rover. Many are improved versions of the cameras on the Curiosity rover, with a few new additions as well. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

The Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity rovers were all designed with engineering cameras for planning drives (Navcams) and avoiding hazards (Hazcams). These produced 1-megapixel images in black and white.

On the Mars 2020 rover, the engineering cameras have been upgraded to acquire high-resolution, 20-megapixel color images.

Their lenses will also have a wider field of view. That’s critical for the mission, which will try to maximize the time spent doing science and collecting samples.

NASA plans to use existing spacecraft already in orbit at Mars — ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and MAVEN orbiter — as relays for the Mars 2020 mission, which will support the cameras during the rover’s first two years.

References: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/overview/

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