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Casey DreierJuly 31, 2014

[Updated]: NASA Selects 7 Science Instruments for its Next Mars Rover

NASA has selected seven science instruments that will ride along with the next Mars rover mission that is set to launch in 2020.

Compared to Curiosity, the Mars 2020 rover will focus on fine-grained mineralogy to help it detect biosignatures and understand how ancient habitats have changed over time. It will also collect and store samples of the martian surface that could be returned to Earth (though no missions are yet planned to do so).

From the press release, the seven instruments are:

Instruments selected for the Mars 2020 rover


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.

The Planetary Society is very pleased that our President, Dr. Jim Bell, will lead the camera system on the next rover. The Society is also an official outreach partner on the camera system.

In addition to these seven instruments, NASA plans to include a suite of sensors on the descent stage that will gather data on the atmosphere during the entry, descent, and landing phase of the spacecraft. Curiosity had a similar set of sensors. The rover will also have an advanced sample caching system and robotic arm that it will use to take core samples from various rocks. These will be stored in a cache that can be left on the surface for another mission to come and retrieve to Earth.

Fifty-eight instruments were proposed and went through a lengthy review process by NASA. The selected instruments now have to be built and integrated with the rover over the next five years.

Update: Some tidbits from today's press conference with the science team:

Read more: Mars 2020, mission status, Future Robotic Missions, Mars

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Casey Dreier

Chief Advocate & Senior Space Policy Adviser for The Planetary Society
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