Next NASA Rover Science Goals Are Outlined

By Frank Morring, Jr.
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

Recommended “high-priority” technologies for achieving that precision are a range trigger that deploys the parachute based on range to the target; terrain-relative navigation that uses a stored surface map instead of inertial propagation for guidance; and an upgrade of the Mars Entry, Descent and Landing Instrumentation that directly measures such terminal-guidance factors as parachute drag.

Target selection would require another competition among promising sites, like those that determined where earlier landers set down. “That process has worked exceptionally well,” says Mustard.

NASA also asked the science definition team to recommend payloads for its human-exploration and space-technology organizations. For that, the team's top priority would be a device to extract oxygen from the planet's carbon dioxide atmosphere, and characterize atmospheric dust so the in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) system could function without clogging.

“It would be an architecture enabling technology for human missions to Mars, which likely will depend on ISRU for producing the propellants needed for the return trip to Earth; ISRU can greatly reduce mass transported to the Martian surface,” the team's report states.

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