Next year, NASA's Mars 2020 rover will begin its journey to the Red Planet to look for signs of habitable conditions and microbial life.
In preparation for its launch, engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California installed two high-definition cameras to the robotic explorer.
Mars 2020 Rover Receives High-Definition Cameras
In a recent photo taken from the Spacecraft Assembly Facility's High Bay 1 at JPL, engineers can be seen reinstalling the cover of the rover's remote sensing mast or RSM. The RSM, which will be one of the first scientific instruments to be deployed when the rover touches down at Jezero Crater, was integrated with two Mastcam-Z high-definition cameras. The RSM and the high-definition cameras were later added to the rover's deck.
According to the Mastcam-Z will allow the science team to see textural, mineralogical, structural, and morphologic properties of rocks and sediment in the field of view of the rover. This way, they will be able to piece together the lost history of the Red Planet.
"Mastcam-Z will be the first Mars color camera that can zoom, enabling 3D images at unprecedented resolution," shared Jim Bell of the Arizona State University, the principal investigator behind the Mars 2020 mission. "With a resolution of three-hundredths of an inch in front of the rover and less than one-and-a-half inches from over 330 feet away — Mastcam-Z images will play a key role in selecting the best possible samples to return from Jezero Crater."
The rover also has a caching system where it will store the samples it has collected for later retrieval. NASA plans to bring back Martian rock and soil samples to Earth during subsequent missions for further analysis.
The Mars 2020 rover will also be the first to be equipped with a Lander Vision System, which has the capability to retarget the spacecraft's point of touchdown during the landing sequence.
Mars 2020 Rover Launch
The Mars 2020 rover is set to be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida in July 2020 on board the Atlas V-541 rocket of the United Launch Alliance. It is expected to touchdown at Jezero Crater, an ancient river delta, seven months later on Feb. 18, 2021.