The Mars 2020 spacecraft is currently on its way to the Red Planet. Ahead of the spacecraft entering the Martian atmosphere, NASA sent a signal to check on some of the sensors aboard the spacecraft. NASA’s signal went out on October 8, and the team waited for a reply from the Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2 (MEDLI2) suit board the spacecraft. MEDLI2 is a collection of sensors designed to measure the aerothermal environment and thermal protection system material performance when the spacecraft enters Mars’ atmosphere.
NASA’s Flight Mission Support Center at Langley Research Center in Virginia received data back from the spacecraft, marking the first contact since the mission launched in July. The sensor suite did undergo and pass a battery of environmental tests before it was installed on the Mars 2020 spacecraft heatshield before launch. The successful test marks the first time MEDLI2 was tested since before launch.
MEDLI2 project manager Henry Wright said this test verified the sensor suite survived launch and the cold deep space. Mars 2020 aims to study the Martian astrobiology and search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover was designed to characterize Mars’ past climate and geology, not only in an attempt to discover fossilized ancient life but also to help pave the way for human exploration of Mars.
Mars 2020 will also be the first mission to collect and cache samples from the surface of Mars and send them back to earth. NASA also reminds us that Mars 2020 is part of a more extensive program, including missions to the Moon, intended to prepare humans to explore the Red Planet. NASA’s Artemis mission intends to send astronauts to the moon by 2024.
According to Artemis mission plans, a sustained human presence on and around the Moon will happen by 2028. Caltech will manage the Perseverance rover aboard the Mars 2020 spacecraft in Pasadena, California.