NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will continue to look for signs of ancient life by collecting and analysing Martian rock and soil. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
A piece of Mars will be heading home in 2020. Sayh al Uhaymir 008 (SaU008), a meteorite that originated from the surface of Mars, will be a passenger onboard NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission. This sample of the Red Planet will serve as target practice for a high-precision laser on the rover’s arm, which will intensely study the geology and chemistry of Mars’ harsh environment.
The primary aim for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is to collect samples of the dry and damaged surface. Information from these samples could potentially help a future mission return these samples to Earth. Although this aim is difficult, it is still plausible. For this to work the rover needs to carefully study a variety of rocks, this is why the rover’s tools will be able to examine rock features as small as a human hair.
In order to accomplish such a high level of precision, the rover needs the correct calibration target to optimise the laser’s settings. Previous Mars rovers have included calibration targets onboard, but it is dependant on the ...