NASA’s call for scientific instrument proposals to be including in the Mars 2020 rover has led to a bounty of proposals. The 58 submissions is double the amount of proposals the space agency usually receives in competitions.
The new rover is part of NASA’s ambitious study of Mars. The space agency currently has two rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity, and three orbiters, Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and MAVEN. NASA plans to launch the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, InSight, Lander in 2016..
While the rover may get all the attention, the scientific and exploration instrument payload will be vital to the success of the mission. NASA plans on spending the next five months evaluating the proposals and choosing the finalists.
The Mars 2020 rover will search for evidence of ancient life on Mars and collect new data that NASA will use to prepare for a future manned mission to the planet. According to the space agency, the rover is part of the plan to fulfill President Barack Obama’s “challenge to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.”
Some of the instruments aboard the rover will be used to detect potential hazards, such as Martian dust, for the future manned mission while other instruments will be used to collect samples that will be sent back to Earth. NASA hopes to gain new insights in trapping carbon dioxide and other resources which can be used to produce oxygen or be used as a fuel source.
NASA said it received instrument proposals from related facilities, universities and international partners and serves as “an indicator of the extraordinary interest in exploration of the Red Planet.” Submitting a proposal is not as easy as filling out a few forms, says John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for science. “Proposal writing for science missions is extremely difficult and time consuming. We truly appreciate this overwhelming response by the worldwide science and technical community and are humbled by the support and enthusiasm for this unique mission,” said Grunsfeld in a statement.
As for the rover itself, NASA’s design will be similar to that of Curiosity and will use the same chassis and landing system.