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Bruce BettsJuly 31, 2014

Planetary Society Selected as Mars 2020 Camera Partner

NASA just announced the selection of science instruments for the Mars 2020 rover, a structural copy of the Curiosity rover to be launched in 2020. We at The Planetary Society are ecstatic to be an education and outreach partner on the selected Mastcam-Z mast camera system. Planetary Society President Jim Bell, in his other life as an Arizona State University professor, is the principal investigator for Mastcam-Z.

Jim said, "I am excited to help bring Planetary Society members along for our next ride to Mars!" Jim has a long science history with rover and other planetary imaging, and has an eye for stunning images, such as those published in his books Postcards from Mars, and Mars 3-D: A Rover's Eye View of the Red Planet.  Very early in the proposal development process, Jim began talking with us and encouraging the development of ideas for sharing the wonder of Mars with the public utilizing his spectacular instrument.

Instruments selected for the Mars 2020 rover

NASA

Instruments selected for the Mars 2020 rover
On the mast are upgraded versions of instruments on Curiosity: Mastcam-Z (color, stereo, 3D, zoom-capable cameras); and SuperCam (upgraded version of ChemCam). On the arm are PIXL, an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer and imager, and SHERLOC, a Raman spectrometer and imager. RIMFAX is a ground-penetrating radar; MEDA is a meteorological package; and MOXIE will advance goals in in-situ resource utilization by producing oxygen from carbon dioxide.

Mastcam-Z is a color stereo camera system. It has a zoom capability that we have never had on a Mars rover. It will produce stunning images from the surface of Mars, including in 3-D.  It also includes a range of filters carefully selected for geologic studies. And, the zoom capability will help in the planning of drives for the rover.  Mastcam-Z derives from the Curiosity Mastcam instrument, and will be built by the builders of Curiosity's Mastcam, Malin Space Science Systems. So, imagine the amazing Curiosity images, but now with zoom and with more science capability.

We have lots of ideas to share the exciting story and results of Mastcam-Z. We'll be sharing them over time as we work with Jim, the instrument team, and NASA, but for now, I just wanted to let all of you know, including our dedicated members who make these types of spacecraft involvement possible, that we are once again headed to Mars!

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Read more: Mars 2020, Planetary Society Projects, Mars

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Bruce Betts

Director of Science and Technology / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society
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