The concept of this artist shows the entrance of the NASA Rover Rover through the upper Martian atmosphere. The Mars 2020 mission will use aspects of this design for its project.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
The heat shield for NASA's upcoming Mars rover recently suffered a fracture during testing, but the incident will not change that. The mission's mission, "Mars 2020," is to surface of the Red Planet to search for signs of old microbial life, and the six-wheeled robot will also search for and characterize potentially habitable environments. The mission is to start in 2020, when Earth and Mars are properly aligned for an interplanetary mission, and arrive at the Red Planet in early 2021
The structural damage to the heat shield, located near the outer edge of the shield, occurred during a week-long test at contractor Lockheed Martin Space's Denver facility, according to a NASA statement released Thursday (April 26 ) has been published. The test was designed to expose the heat shield to forces about 20 percent greater than those experienced during entry, landing and descent into the Martian atmosphere. [NASA’s Mars Rover 2020 Mission in Pictures (Gallery)]
The Mars 2020 team found the fracture on April 12th. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory's mission leadership in Pasadena, California, will work with Lockheed Martin to investigate the cause of the crack and decide if design changes should be made. NASA officials said in the statement.
The incident will not delay the launch of Mars 2020, which is currently targeted for July 17, 2020, officials added.
It is important to investigate this crack because the heat shield is part of the spacecraft thermal protection system developed by engineers to keep the Mars Rover safe as the vehicle is exposed to intense heat during atmospheric penetration ,
NASA officials said the current heat shield will be repaired to allow continued pre-launch testing of spacecraft. The Mars 2020 mission team will develop a new heat shield structure over the next year. Once completed, the new shield will receive additional important components such as thermal tiles.