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Home / Science / Move, Energizer Bunny! NASA's Mars 2020 Rover has just received its nuclear hare

Move, Energizer Bunny! NASA's Mars 2020 Rover has just received its nuclear hare



The Mars 2020 rover's propulsion system, a so-called Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), is inserted into the back end of the rover between the white fields of gold tubes.

[Picture credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech]

The next spacecraft of NASA is launched Mars gets a nuclear battery to operate science on the Red Planet.

The Rover Mars 2020 will soon be powered by a multipurpose thermoelectric radioisotope generator, which is essentially a battery to keep it warm and productive on its mission in search of signs of habitability Mars.

Mars 2020 not only uses nuclear power, but also a host of other NASA spacecraft ̵

1; a total of 27 -. Examples include the Voyager missions in interstellar space, the New Horizons mission that passed Pluto, and Curiosity – Mars 2020's predecessor rover on the Red Planet.

Rover 2020 Mission in Pictures

The production of plutonium-238 – a radioactive plutonium isotope that powers the Mars 2020 rover – was discontinued in the US 1980s set for a while and then resumed in 2011 a joint effort by NASA and the Department of Energy. The isotope is the main source of energy for spacecraft that can not rely on solar energy, usually because the vehicle is too far from the sun or in a world where sunlight is too weak to generate enough energy.

A 2017 Government Accountability Office report found that enough plutonium-238 was in stock at the time to carry out the space missions scheduled for 2020. However, there were long-term problems in the production of plutonium-238, including the availability of reactors, technical problems in chemical processing, and the recruitment and training of workers. In 2018, NASA announced, citing advances in inventory management, that plutonium would be available for its next Discovery Class Mission with the selection of Stage 1 in 2020 and the final selection in 2021 is announced.

The nuclear battery on Mars 2020 will produce about 110 watts of electrical energy through the natural decay of plutonium-238 in uranium-234. The energy is then converted into electricity using thermocouples (devices that generate voltage). NASA has announced that fueling nuclear weapons is an important milestone, indicating that the Rover is well on its way to launch in July 2020, as the charging process for this fuel source is carefully matched to the launch date.

: Nuclear Generators Drive NASA Probes in Space (Infographic)

Photograph taken on June 1, Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, working on Rover Mars 2020.

(Photo credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

The interior of the rover is almost done waiting for a caching assembly where the rover will save important samples for a future sample return mission . The exterior is still under construction; The robot arm and the high gain antenna are among the visible changes to the outside.

"We are advancing on all fronts – including the completion of the cruise stage, which will lead us to Mars and the landing system for descent from a sky crane." John McNamee, Project Manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, said in an explanation that we will gently sink to the surface. "And not only does the Rover look more and more like a rover every day, it also behaves like one."

The mission is to land at Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021. NASA says the Rover is the first of its kind that can redefine its touchdown point during landing. If the technology works, it could help missions with crew on the Red Planet in a future decade.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace . Follow us on Twitter @SpaceTotcom and Facebook .


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