Preparations are underway for NASA's next mission to Mars when it plans to land Mars 2020 on the surface to seek out signs of life and collect samples. The Mars 2020 Marsons team recently undertook a series of tests to see if the craft could launch, navigate and land on the Red Planet. Called Systems Test 1
"ST1 is a massive venture," said Heather Don, system engineer for the Mars 2020 mission. "This was our first chance to use the flight software that we will fly by 2020 with the actual components of the spacecraft that will be direct to Mars, and make sure that they not only work as expected but also interact with each other as expected. "
Tests were conducted at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in the clean High Bay 1 room, requiring technicians to paint white "rabbit suits" to prevent the introduction of pollutants. Most of the team members were outside the room and looked around, with only two technicians watching the tests personally.
Designed to be as realistic as possible, the tests included communications managed by radio frequency band broadcasting, just like the actual 2020 mission. Electric wiring supplies data and power to the vessel, and the commissioning capacity is tested when commands for powering the electrical components and configuring the heat, power and telecommunication systems were relayed.
After several tests of the launch system, the landing sequence was tested as well as a deep space flight. The tests were successful and, ultimately, the team managed to make two landings, four launches, several path-correction maneuvers and deep space navigation.
The next challenge for Rover is to see how it will handle the low level. temperatures on Mars by testing his abilities to work in a cold environment. "One of the future scenario tests will place the quadruple inside the thermal chamber and simulate that it's on the surface," said Don. "It will go through critically important activities at some very low temperatures on the surface of Mars. Both literally and in a figurative sense, it will be a very cool test. "