WASHINGTON – The five-week government partial closure at the beginning of this period that the backward elements of other NASA missions could have generated a pardon for a troubled instrument on the next mission of the Mars agency.
During the March 27 presentation to the National Academy of Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences of the National Academies here, Ken Farley, a scientist of the 2020 Mars 2020 motorist, said that NASA conducted the mission last December to take Complete a "completion / continuation" review for the digitization of habitable environments. with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC), one of the rover's instruments.
"It had a combination of technical challenges and a high cost of risk, which means that it was still unclear what it was supposed to cost the instrument because there were technical challenges that had not yet been overcome," he said.
This review was originally scheduled for early January, he said, but was delayed by the partial partial five-week stop that began on December 22, restricting all activities of the agency, except the essentials. The review finally took place at the end of January and beginning of February, after finalizing the stop.
"Actually, we have been able to do some progress in solving some of the technical challenges," Farley said. After the review, the leadership of NASA ordered the mission to continue developing SHERLOC with "relatively small modifications to the procedures used to minimize additional cost growth and minimize time risk."
Farley added that the mission was looking for "breakouts" in the instrument that would reduce its capabilities, but would also reduce its technical risk and its costs. "Basically, there was nothing obvious that could be done," he said.
The instrument, mounted on the rover arm, has a set of spectrometers, a camera and a laser to study the Martian rocks. Scientists plan to use the instrument to look for minerals or organic material that can be evidence of past Martian life.
Farley, speaking of the teleconferencing committee, that the instrument's laser spectrometer component is expected to be sent to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory this summer to integrate it into the spacecraft. There are backup plans, however, including the possibility of the device being installed on the rover after being sent to Cap Canaveral, Florida, next January for the July 2020 launch.
He did not deepen into the details of the instrument's problem, but said he had to do with a high-voltage power source for his laser. "If I could convey a message to the scientific community, it is to think deeply about high voltage supplies on Mars, because they have been a real problem for us," he said. "Mars is a terrible environment for these tensions, so we have problems to arcar."
SHERLOC was one of the reasons cited by NASA for the overload of the mission. The agency, in its request for a total budget for the year 2020, on March 18, said that the problems with another instrument, the planetary Instrument for X-ray lithomics, as well as the Cache memory system of the rover sample, caused the growth of costs for the mission.
NASA has not provided more details about this cost growth. During a meeting of the NASA City Council at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference on March 18, Lori Glaze, director of NASA's planetary science division, said the growth of costs was lower than 15 percent of the total cost: $ 2.1 million plus $ 300 million for your first Martian. Year of operations – and that the costs would flow largely from other parts of the global Mars program. The operating plan of the 2019 agency, which has not yet been released, will contain details of these costs.
There are other aspects of the mission. The thermal shield that will protect the rover during the entrance to the Martian atmosphere had to be reconstructed after the original unit broke during the tests of last year. "The news is coming to the scheduled time," he said, and is expected to be released this summer. The mechanical actuators for various parts of the navigation motor, components that caused problems for the development of the Curiosity radio engine, have been delivered to JPL.
An essential part of Mars 2020's mission will be to keep samples of rocks and soils from Mars to return to Earth for future missions. As the planning of these future missions begins, Farley said that what Mart 2020 will do with these samples has been reconsidered.
Previous planning asked the rover to leave the sample bubbles on the surface as it moved and required a future mission to pick them up with their own rover. Farley said the mission is now thinking about returning to its original plans to transport cache samples to the rover.
"We are having interactions with the group of people who are thinking about how to really do it," he said he planned to collect and return samples. "In particular, how can Mars 2020 manage your sample cache better? Is it better to leave them in one place or in several places, or have the samples on board and potentially participate in a delivery?"
Much added, there is no urgency at the time of selecting a method to store cached samples. "The beauty of this design is that none of this does not matter, because the hardware is capable of doing any combination of bringing everything or putting it all on the ground or dividing it," he said. "We must not compromise in one way or another basically until the moment we put them or not do it when we are on Mars."