NASA and its crews are hard at work on the Mars 2020 rover getting it ready for its launch next year. NASA has announced that the cameras have been installed in the remote sensing mast (RSM) that carries optics and instrumentation. The RSM and the twin cameras installed inside it will be installed onto the deck of the rover on June 3, 2019.
Mastcam-Z is a multispectral, stereoscopic imaging tool that will enhance the driving and core-sampling capability of the rover. The cameras will also allow the science team operating the instruments to observe textural, mineralogical, structural, and morphologic details in rocks and sediment in the rover field of view.
Mastcam-Z is the first Mars color camera that can zoom to take 3D images at “unprecedented resolution.” The cameras have a resolution of 0.8mm in front of the rover and less than 38mm from over 330-feet away from the rover. Images taken with the cameras will play a key role in how the science team selects which samples to return from the crater.
Mars 2020 has more going for it than fancy cameras. It will also be the first spacecraft in the history of planetary exploration that has the ability to retarget its point of touchdown accurately during the landing sequence. Mars 2020 is also able to collect rock and soil samples that can be stored on the surface of Mars for retrieval and return to Earth by later missions.
Mars 2020 is set to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July of 2020, more than a year from now. The rover is under construction by JPL, which will also manager operations of the rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate.