NASA set to launch the next rover that will cruise the surface of Mars and gather data and information for scientists back on Earth. The rover is called the Mars Perseverance Rover, and its launch window opens in a little less than four months. The rover is a six-wheeled device, and NASA says that it is reaching significant pre-launch milestones almost daily.
Some components for the Mars Perseverance Rover were removed before it was shipped from the NASA JPL to Cape Canaveral in early February. Team members at Cape Canaveral are currently assembling and testing components that will play critical roles in the acquisition, containment, and eventual return to Earth of the first samples from another planet. One critical component that the team is working on right now is the Adaptive Caching Assembly and the Bit Carousel.
The Bit Carousel contains nine drill bits that the rover will use to sample Martian rock and dust. The carousel was attached to the rover on March 7, and the component is the gateway for samples to move into the belly of the rover for assessment and processing by the Adaptive Caching System. The latter system was installed on March 3 and consists of seven motors and more than 3000 parts in total.
The Adaptive Caching Assembly uses all those parts in unison to collect samples from the surface of Mars and save them. One main component of the system is called the Sample Handling Arm that moves sample tubes to the main robotic arm’s coring drill and transfers the filled sample tubes into a space that is sealed and stored. NASA says that the installation and testing of the electrical wiring for the Bit Carousel and the Adaptive Caching Assembly was completed on March 11.
The team says that the most crucial elements to install will be the sample tubes that will hold the samples until they return to Earth for analysis. The team is working to keep those tubes of pristine until they’re integrated in a few months. NASA notes that currently, the coronavirus epidemic hasn’t impacted the launch schedule, and preparations are continuing.