(CNN)When the newly developed Mars 2020 rover lands on the Red Planet in February 2021 after embarking on a seven-month cruise through space, we will be able to hear sounds of the landing and the Martian surface for the first time, according to NASA.
“Not only is there going to be a microphone, there will be several microphones,” said Kenneth Farley, Mars 2020 project scientist. “There will be a microphone as part of [the camera system during entry, descent and landing] and we will also have a microphone on one of the science instruments that will allow us to hear sounds on the surface as we are driving around. So we will have the first sounds coming back from Mars.”
Then, it’s ready to rove.
Unlike while it’s on the surface and exploring, the rover’s landing is entirely autonomous, with no help from engineers, This time, a range trigger will be added, which helps the descent vehicle determine if it needs to open the parachute earlier or later than expected. It will also use a suite of cameras to steer away from unsafe landing zones. This enables the rover to land in a more specific destination or a tighter spot. This new technology shrinks the area or margin of error by 50%.
But where to land? Scientists have narrowed it down to eight possible landing sites. They want it to be able to land safely on a flatter surface that is surrounded by rocky terrain with the signs of habitability they want to study.
“We want a lot of rocks or rock outcrop, because that’s what tells us the geologic story,” Farley said. “These must date from the days when Mars was wet 3.5 billion years ago. Out of the eight sites, the first half are associated with surface water such as rivers, lakes and deltas recorded in the rocks. The other half are associated with high temperature water circulating through the rocks. On Earth, those are areas where microbial life thrives.”
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Over the next couple of years, they hope to determine the final landing site.
In the meantime, Curiosity’s observations continue to thrill us, the MAVEN orbiter will arrive in September to study the Martian upper atmosphere and the InSight lander will launch in 2018 to study the interior of the planet. These are part of the continuing Mars Exploration program, which are paving the way for a human landing on the Red Planet.
“This is taking the first step towards what we’ve wanted for a long time,” Farley said.
Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/15/health/mars-2020-rover-announcement/index.html