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NASA Flaunts Design for 2020 Mars Rover

An upgraded version of Curiosity is heading to Mars to search for evidence of life

2 min read
NASA Flaunts Design for 2020 Mars Rover

Last December, NASA officially announced that it was planning to send a robotic rover to Mars in 2020 as a follow-up to Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity. Obviously, we're pretty damn excited. Yesterday, JPL released some details about what they've been working on, and the plans that the Mars 2020 Science Definition Team has for their fancy new rover.

The Mars 2020 Rover is designed to be a follow-up to Curiosity, with a mission targeted at searching for and identifying signs of past (microbial) life:

It's no coincidence that the Mars 2020 rover looks a lot like Curiosity. The Mars 2020 Rover (I'm just going to go ahead and start calling it M2020) is based entirely on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) "Curiosity class" platform, and the primary differences are going to be in the science payload. The biggest difference that you can spot in the above artistic rendering is the absence of the butt-mounted radioisotope thermoelectric generator, but JPL will likely fly another one on M2020, it's just not for sure yet (and other power sources, including solar, are under consideration). 

Here's where we'll be seeing the primary differences between MSL and M2020:


And here's what's probably going in all of those spots, with specific instrumentation open to proposal:



One of the highlights of M2020 is definitely going to be the drill and sample cache system. The idea is that the rover will take 31 different rock samples on the surface of Mars, seal them up, and then store them for later retrieval, maybe in the late 2020s or 2030s.

So far there's no speculation on just HOW these rocks would be retrieved back to Earth, but we're assuming it would be with robots, 'cause humans likely won't be on Mars until a bit later than that.

The other important aspect of the Mars 2020 mission is the landing, and it sounds like it's going to be another harrowing skycrane adventure, albeit with updated instrumentation that should allow for a much smaller landing target. Between you and me, I'm still amazed that that whole crazy system managed to work flawlessly, and I'm already worried that pushing for two in a row is just a little bit optimistic. But either way, we're already planning to camp out at JPL to see all of this happen, and mark your calendars for the M2020 landing in either January or March 2021.

[ Mars 2020 ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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