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Category Archives: Mars

Astronauts on a Mars mission will need to be ‘conscientious’ to work well together – CNN

Posted: November 29, 2020 at 5:50 am

Conscientiousness, defined as "wishing to do what is right, especially to do one's work or duty well and thoroughly," has emerged as the key trait requirement for astronauts that will live and work on the surface of Mars millions of miles from Earth, according to a new study.

This trait was identified as more important than honesty, humility, emotionality, extroversion, openness and agreeableness.

"Conscientiousness, an individual personality trait, can be thought of as a pooled team-resource," said Julia McMenamin, the study's first author and a doctoral student in psychology at Western University in Canada, in a statement. "The more conscientiousness a team is, the better they will likely be at accomplishing tasks."

Conversely, traits like "social loafing," or the habit of a team member putting in less effort than when they work solo, are undesirable in a potential Marstronaut. Traits that seem counterproductive and negative behaviors are likely to cause more trouble and disruptions in a team environment.

The researchers consider these traits and behavior "non-negotiable" for long-duration spaceflight crews.

A careful focus on crew selection, emphasizing effective communication and very detailed work and planning processes, could help avoid any negative factors.

Some of the same things identified in the study could be used to help people coping with isolation during the pandemic as well.

Simulating a mission to Mars

Currently, NASA is targeting the 2030s for the first human mission to Mars. Depending on the alignment of Mars and Earth for launch and landing and the duration of the mission on the Martian surface, this crew could spend five years together -- not including training together beforehand.

To test what this crew dynamic might be like ahead of a real mission, researchers studied a team of five "astronauts" during an exercise analogous to a Mars mission. This event was hosted by the Austrian Space Forum in Oman in 2018. The Dhofar region of Oman is a good analog for the Martian environment in terms of isolation and extreme conditions.

McMenamin was joined by Natalie Allen, a professor of psychology at Western Univeristy, and Ottawa-based space exploration company Mission Control Space Services Chief Science Officer Melissa Battler for the study.

The AMADEE-18 analog space mission lasted for four weeks. Five astronauts, including four men and one woman between the ages of 28 to 38, lived in a simulated Mars environment.

Before, during and after the mission, the astronauts filled out surveys addressing the performance of their team and any team conflicts as well as their stress levels.

At the end of the mission, the astronauts rated themselves and each teammate. They also answered questions about their behavior in their respective roles and identified any counterproductive behaviors, including social loafing.

This particular team worked well together as a team, but the researchers were not surprised because they had prepared for their "mission." The team was also supported by field and mission control teams.

The team members were also familiar with each other before the mission began. All of these factors can be identified in examples of positive teamwork on Earth, the researchers said.

"How familiar team members are with one another has been shown to help teams work better together likely because it provides team members with knowledge about each other and helps them communicate better and more efficiently," McMenamin said.

Stress is a common negative factor that can influence team performance on Earth and in space. It's distracting, increases anxiety, causes cooperative difficulty, increases task overload and contributes to destructive emotions.

"Anyone who has worked on a team knows conflict amongst team members can harm team performance and make for a negative experience. When people argue about how to get things done, or get into personal disagreements, there is less time and energy left for completing tasks," McMenamin said.

"What's interesting is that there are different types of conflict, and so long as interpersonal issues and arguments about how to go about accomplishing tasks are avoided, differences in views and opinions might actually improve team performance likely because this allows for the team to benefit from each member's knowledge and perspective."

Given that this particular analog mission only lasted for about a month, the researchers are interested to know how things might play out over the course of a long-duration mission.

"Major issues caused by psychological distress and interpersonal problems don't tend to show up until months or even years spent in an isolated, confined, and extreme environment, which highlights the need for longer-duration simulations," McMenamin said.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Being a good team player has almost always been part of the astronaut playbook, going back to the days of the Apollo missions.

Former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino spoke to CNN in September about the Netflix series "Away," which focuses on an international crew leading the first human mission to Mars. Massimino served as a consultant for the show.

The show crew was most interested in hearing about the human side of being an astronaut, Massimino said. For example, they asked him about the emotional aspects of leaving your family behind on Earth, the camaraderie between the crew and "what it's like in your heart and soul, rather than the process," he said.

Massimino, who flew on multiple missions during the Shuttle era, told them that "the Earth looks like heaven. It makes you realize we're so lucky to be here."

Regarding the teamwork aspect of spaceflight, "we really do love each other as astronauts," Massimino said. "It's like a hybrid between a family member and a friend. You really do care about each other. And there were seven of us on the Shuttle crew. We became like a family, having all of these experiences in training and spaceflight. They're extraordinary and there is not anything I wouldn't do for these people."

Massimino was selected to be an astronaut in 1996. When asked about the traits that would be important for astronauts going to Mars, he said he feels that the selection process would be similar to the way NASA chooses astronaut candidates now for long-term spaceflight on the International Space Station.

"We're looking for people who would be good candidates for long-duration spaceflight that get along, personalities that would let things roll. If things go wrong, you make mistakes because you're not perfect, you need to be able to roll with it. They should be able to contribute and be a good positive crew member, not only for their crewmates, but the people helping them back on Earth."

One of the most important aspects that helps the crew's morale and performance is a connection to Earth and the people they care about on it -- something that will be increasingly more difficult as a spacecraft leaves Earth for Mars, causing communication delays.

People tend to think of astronauts as superheroes, Massimino said.

"But we're really just regular people who care about each other and have really awesome jobs."

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UAE mission to Mars on course to arrive in February 2021 – The Guardian

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The Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) is on course to arrive at the Red Planet on 9 February. A third and final major trajectory correction manoeuvre (TCM) was completed on 10 November. An additional minor TCM in December will tee it up for a Mars orbit insertion manoeuvre next year. Without the need for further major course corrections, the mission team can begin early science observations of Mars and interplanetary space.

The EMM spacecraft, also known as Hope, carries three instruments primarily designed to study the tenuous Martian atmosphere. With its arrival, the United Arab Emirates will become the fifth region, after the US, Russia, Europe and India, to reach Mars. Launched in July 2020, it is one of three spacecraft currently en route to the red planet. Chinas Tianwen orbiter and rover, and the US rover Perseverance were also launched at the same time.

EMM is the first interplanetary mission by an Arab nation, and was developed by a team led from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), Dubai. It was funded by the UAE government through the UAE Space Agency.

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See the moon and Mars shine close together on Thanksgiving eve tonight –

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The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is sometimes referred to as "Getaway Day" in the United States. Normally this is one of the most traveled-days of the year, as millions board planes and trains or travel by car in order to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends. Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic will probably significantly reduce the number of travelers this year.

But if still do plan to travel and even if you don't if the weather is clear in your area on Wednesday evening (Nov. 25), you will have an opportunity to see what probably are, for most people, the two of the "most asked for" objects to look at through a telescope: the moon and Mars. So far as Mars is concerned, recall that during the first half of October, that planet made the closest approach to Earth that it will make until the year 2035. At that time, Mars was absolutely dazzling, holding forth as the third brightest object in the night sky next to the moon and Venus.

But things have quickly changed over the past six or seven weeks.

Related: Get ready for the 'Great Conjunction' of Jupiter and Saturn

About 45 minutes after sunset on Wednesday evening, look toward the east-southeast sky and about one-third of the way up from the horizon you will see a waxing gibbous moon, four days past first-quarter phase and five days before full. Situated about 5 degrees above and slightly to the moon's left you'll see Mars, which continues to steadily draw away from the Earth.

While we call Mars the "Red Planet," you will see that in actuality it shines with more of a yellowish-orange tint. That coloration is due to rusting iron-oxide that covers much of the Martian surface. Here on Earth we have something quite similar to that in the colors of the famous Painted Desert in Arizona. Still, the yellow-orange color apparently suggested blood to ancient skywatchers, and since the "wandering stars" that we know as planets were named for ancient deities, it seemed fitting to name this topaz wanderer after the god of war.

On Nov. 1, Mars blazed at -2.1 magnitude brighter than Sirius, the brightst star in the night sky while at a distance of 43.7 million miles (70.4 million kilometers) from Earth. But on Wednesday night, it will be 12.5 million miles (20.1 million km) farther away from us and consequently will have dimmed noticeably to magnitude -1.3, or only about half as bright as it appeared on Nov. 1.

Make no mistake about it, however; Mars is still a brilliant object, appearing only a trifle dimmer than Sirius. But when you compare it to what it was in early October when it loomed much closer, it has gone through quite a comedown.

Mars now appears more than three times fainter, and by the end of November in telescopes its disk will appear 27% smaller compared to early October.

Nonetheless, both the moon and Mars will still make for an attractive and eye-catching tableau wherever the sky is clear. And it will be most interesting to watch how their orientation to each other will appear to change during the course of the night. At around 6:15 p.m. local time, they will appear high above the southeast horizon, with Mars standing directly above the moon. When they appear highest in the sky due south at 9 p.m., Mars will appear above and slightly to the moon's right. And by around 2 a.m. (early Thanksgiving morning) they'll be hovering low above the western horizon, getting ready to soon set side-by-side, the moon appearing to Mars' left.

From here on, Mars will continue to shrink and get dimmer as its distance from Earth increases. By midwinter, even a large telescope will have difficulty in bringing out any surface features. By then, Mars will only be a tiny dot.

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York'sHayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy forNatural History magazine, theFarmers' Almanacand other publications. Follow uson Twitter@Spacedotcomand onFacebook.

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See The Moon And Mars Close Together – WLTZ – WLTZ 38 NBC

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Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving are providing stargazers with a rare opportunity to see the Moon and Mars make a close approach.

(CNN) Thanksgiving Eve is providing stargazers a rare opportunity to see the moon and Mars make a close approach in the night sky.

For most of us, you will see the moon in the East-Southeast sky.

Then, situated about five degrees above and slightly to the moons left youll see Mars.

While Mars is called the red planet, in the night sky it actually has more of a yellowish-orange tint.

That color comes from the rusting iron-oxide that covers much of the martian surface.

The rare alignment will repeat itself Thanksgiving night, but Mars orbit will take it gradually farther away from us after that.

Youll have to wait until 2035 for Mars to be this close to earth again.

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Perseverance rover to create oxygen on the surface of Mars – New Atlas

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When NASAs Perseverance rover touches down in Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021, it will carry with it an experiment that will attempt to transform atmospheric carbon dioxide into precious oxygen. Future crewed missions to the Red Planet could use large amounts of converted oxygen to create fuel with which to launch return rockets from the surface of Mars.

Launching materials into space is a phenomenally difficult and expensive endeavor, with a price tag of roughly US$10,000 per pound of cargo launched in to orbit. To save on costs and make the ambitious goal of exploring Mars more realistic, NASA and its partners are exploring ways that future astronauts can utilize resources native to the Red Planet to survive and, eventually, return to Earth.

One of the most vital resources that astronauts will need to explore Mars is oxygen. This precious gas is needed for a range of purposes. Most obviously the human crew will need fresh oxygen to breathe, but it is also a key ingredient needed to synthesize the rocket fuel needed to power a rocket on the return trip to Earth.

NASAs Perseverance rover is set to test the feasibility of producing oxygen on the Red Planet after descending to the Martian surface, with the use of its Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instrument.

The Martian atmosphere is incredibly thin relative to Earths atmospheric shield, and is comprised of 95 percent carbon dioxide.

The toaster-sized instrument is designed to suck the plentiful supply of CO2 from the atmosphere using an air pump, and electrochemically separate the greenhouse gas into its constituent parts, with each molecule yielding two atoms of oxygen and one of carbon. The results of the experiment would then be analyzed to gauge the purity and amount of oxygen produced.

"MOXIE is designed to make about six to 10 grams of oxygen per hour just about enough for a small dog to breathe," said Asad Aboobaker, a MOXIE systems engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. "A full-scale system geared to make (propellant for the flight home) would need to scale up oxygen production by about 200 times what MOXIE will create."

This process runs at a high temperature 1,470 F (800 C) to be precise requiring the instrument to be constructed from heat-resistant materials including 3D-printed alloy elements that help distribute the excess heat. The box-shaped experiment is also coated in gold to protect the rest of the rover from the infrared radiation being generated during the oxygen creation process.

Perseverances science team is expected to run MOXIE 10 times over the course of a two-year period in order to test how efficiently the experiment is able to harvest oxygen from the atmosphere in varying Martian seasons.

Scientists are currently working to create a full-sized MOXIE oxygen extractor, which is set to be far larger than the Perseverance experiment, and could weigh around 2,200 lb (1,000 kg).

Source: NASA

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Imagine controlling a Mars rover with the Sphero RVR, the All-Terrain Programmable Coding Robot –

Posted: at 5:49 am

You won't want to miss this all-terrain deal. The Sphero RVR, a programmable and drivable robot, is available for 18% off on Amazon right now.

You can drive the RVR right out of the box, but it comes into its own when you start to tinker. Download the Sphero Edu app on your smartphone and you'll be able to program it to follow your instructions and interact or adapt with the environment using its color and light sensors as well as IR, accelerometer and gyroscope.

Sphero RVR: All-Terrain Programmable Coding Robot: $249.99 $204.07 at Amazon

Drive away with an incredible discount on the Sphero RVR, which encourages beginning and intermediate coders to take their hacking skills on the road.View Deal

The Spero RVR robot allows budding coders to literally take control of its motions and sensors using Draw & Drive, Scratch blocks or JavaScript. It also can be hacked using advanced SDK and API libraries for those who have more coding skill, so it's great for different levels of coders. Best yet, you can build on its basic functionality using Raspberry Pi, Arduino or other third-party hardware.

This item is perfect for encouraging STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in kids, preteens and teens and for adults, it may encourage you to play a little in your spare time. Safe driving!

Sphero RVR is just one of a fleet of programmable robots made by the company, but Amazon ranks it as the top choice in Sphero products. It's also a great conversation piece to teach kids about autonomous driving and embracing our robotic future.

Be sure to check out's Best Space Gifts, as well as our Best Black Friday telescope deals.

Sphero RVR: $249.99 $204.07 at Amazon

The Sphero RVR can be used right out of the box, but also helps teach coding from beginners to intermediate and even advanced coders.View Deal

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See the moon and a super bright Mars cozy up on Thanksgiving eve tonight – CNET

Posted: at 5:49 am

A waxing gibbous moon over Warsaw, Poland, on July 30.

Take a break from Thanksgiving prep Wednesday night and head outside for a stargazing break. You'll get a look at an exceptionally bright view of Mars as it buddies up with the moon in a pairing that's at least as good as mashed potatoes and gravy.

"The summer and fall of 2020 have been exciting times to see bright Mars and the moon together each month," astronomy educator and former planetarium director Jeffrey Hunt says. He's written about the view on his site,When the Curves Line Up. "The moon passes the planet each month, but because of Mars' proximity to Earth, we won't see Mars this bright again until 2033 and 2035."

From the lab to your inbox. Get the latest science stories from CNET every week.

Hunt advises stargazers in most climates to grab a coat, and a pair of binoculars to help with the view. Head outside about an hour after sunset in your time zone, he says, and look for the bright gibbous moon. Mars will appear about five degrees above it.

You don't need to rush outside just at sunset, as the pairing of Mars and the moon is is nearly an all-night affair, Hunt says. The celestial bodies are visible most of the night, from shortly after sunset until about 3 a.m. CT the next morning, about four hours before (your) local sunrise, he adds.

Look for Mars above the bright gibbous moon.

The sky will deliver a mythology lesson, too.

"Mars is in front of the stars of Pisces, while the lunar orb is in front of the stars of Cetus, the sea monster," Hunt says. "The stars of the creature likely represent the sea creature in the famous Perseus myth."

We Earthlings do seem to have a special fascination with the red planet -- just look at the fandom for the 2015 Matt Damon movie The Martian, based on Andy Weir's 2011 best-seller. And the NASA Curiosity rover continues to root out new details about the planet, including recent data including signs of possible megafloods. NASA's Perseverance roverwill investigate the planet further once it lands in February 2021.

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Relativity Space raises $500 million as it sets sights on the industrialization of Mars – TechCrunch

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3D-printed rocket startup Relativity Space has closed $500 million in Series D funding (making official the earlier reported raise), the company announced today. This funding was led by Tiger Global Management, and included participation by a host of new investors, including Fidelity Management & Research Company, Baillie Gifford, Iconiq Capital, General Catalyst and more. This brings the companys total raised so far to nearly $700 million, as the startup is poised to launch its first-ever fully 3D-printed orbital rocket next year.

LA-based Relativity had a big 2020, completing work on a new 120,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Long Beach. Its rocket construction technology, which is grounded in its development and use of the largest metal 3D printers in existence, suffered relatively few setbacks due to COVID-19-related shutdowns and work stoppages as it involves relatively few actual people on the factory floor managing the 3D printing process, which is handled in large part by autonomous robotic systems and software developed by the company.

Relativity also locked in a first official contract from the U.S. government this year, to launch a new experimental cryogenic fluid management system on behalf of client Lockheed Martin, as part of NASAs suite of Tipping Point contracts to fund the development of new technologies for space exploration. It also put into service its third-generation Stargate 3D metal printers the largest on Earth, as mentioned.

The companys ambitions are big, so this new large funding round should provide it with fuel to grow even more aggressively in 2021. Its got new planned initiatives underway, both terrestrial and space-related, but CEO and founder Tim Ellis specifically referred to Mars and sustainable operations on the red planet as one possible application of Relativitys tech down the road.

In prior conversations, Ellis has alluded to the potential for Relativitys printers when applied to other large-scale metal manufacturing noting that the cost curve as it stands makes most sense for rocketry, but could apply to other industries easily as the technology matures. Whether on Mars or on Earth, large-scale 3D printing definitely has a promising future, and it looks like Relativity is well-positioned to take advantage.

Well be talking to Ellis at our forthcoming TC Sessions: Space event, so well ask him more about this round and his companys aspirations, too.

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Watching the Skies: Moon passes by bright Mars –

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) A new satellite launched into orbit last weekend with the goal of collecting data on global sea levels.

The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Satellite launched Saturday from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The satellite is roughly the size of a pickup truck and it hitched a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

The satellite will take observations and monitor global sea level for the next several years. The data it collects will also be useful in improving the accuracy of weather forecasts.

Back on Earth, well be able to see the moon pass by Mars mid-week. Look up and southeast at nightfall to see the moon. Once youve spotted the moon, it will be easy to find Mars, which is very bright. It will be left of the moon Tuesday, just above the moon Wednesday and to the upper right of the moon Thursday.

The full moon will arrive early in the morning on Nov. 30. This full moon, the last of fall, is known as the Beaver Moon, the Frosty Moon and the Mourning Moon. It will rise in the east around sunset and set in the west around sunrise.

This full moon will also bring a penumbral eclipse. A penumbral eclipse is usually subtle but if you have good eyesight, you may be able to see a little bit of shading on the moon. About 82% of the moon will appear a shade darker. The best time to look is the eclipses peak around 4:45 a.m. Nov. 30.

The next time we see the full moon, it will be both meteorological and astronomical winter.

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Hear Subtle Sounds NASA’s Perseverance Picked Up As It Travels Through Deep Space on the Way to Mars – SciTechDaily

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In this annotated illustration, the location of the Perseverance rovers entry, descent, and landing microphone is shown. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The first to be rigged with microphones, the agencys latest Mars rover picked up the subtle sounds of its own inner workings during interplanetary flight.

A microphone aboard NASAs Mars 2020 Perseverance rover has recorded the sounds of the spacecraft as it hurtles through interplanetary space. While another mic aboard the rover is intended specifically to listen for the laser zaps of the SuperCam instrument, this one is devoted to capturing some or all of the entry, descent, and landing (EDL) sequence from the firing of the mortar that releases the parachute to the Mars landing engines kicking in to the rover wheels crunching down onto the surface.

Data for the 60-second audio file was collected on October 19 during an in-flight checkout of the camera and microphone system that will pick up some of the landing drama at Mars Jezero Crater early next year.

You can listen to the sound file here:

The subdued whirring you hear is from the rovers heat rejection fluid pump. Located at the rear-starboard side of the Perseverance, the pump is part of the rovers thermal system, which will help maintain operational temperatures for vehicle components on even the coldest of winter nights. It does its job by circulating fluid through a heat exchanger mounted adjacent to the always-toasty Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator and then into a network of tubes spread throughout the rovers chassis.

With apologies to the person who came up with the slogan for Alien, I guess you could say that in space no one may be able to hear you scream, but they can hear your heat rejection fluid pump, said Dave Gruel, lead engineer for Mars 2020s EDL Camera and Microphone subsystem. The microphone we included to hear what its like to land on Mars was actually able to pick up Perseverances thermal system operating in the vacuum of space through mechanical vibration.

In this annotated illustration, the location of the Perseverance rovers entry, descent, and landing microphone is shown. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As any fan of cinematic sci-fi knows, the vacuum of space is a less-than-optimal environment for auditory transmissions. But that doesnt mean sound cant find another way. Sound waves can travel through solid objects. When these mechanical vibrations are registered by an electrical component, they sometimes are turned into an electrical signal. (Anyone listening to music through in-ear headphones may have encountered this phenomenon as a rustling or thumping noise when the headphone cord brushes up against a surface.)

The sound file was processed by DPA Microphones of Alleroed, Denmark, which manufactured the EDL microphone hardware flying on Mars 2020.

As great as it is to pick up a little audio on spacecraft operations in-flight, the sound file has a more important meaning, Gruel added. It means that our system is working and ready to try to record some of the sound and fury of a Mars landing.

An electrical cable can be seen snaking its way along insulation material in this in-flight image of the interior of the Mars 2020 spacecraft on its way to the Red Planet. The picture was assembled using three images taken by the Perseverance rovers rear left Hazcam during a systems check on October 19, 2020. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The EDL microphone was not tailor-made for this mission or space exploration and the team does not know quite what to expect from their sound files of landing day.

Getting sound from landing is a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have, said Gruel. If it doesnt happen, it will not impede the rovers mission of discovery at Jezero Crater one bit. If even a portion of the landing sequence is captured on audio, that would be awesome.

Humanitys most sophisticated rover is traveling to the Red Planet with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. Together, they will enter the Martian atmosphere on Feb. 18, 2021, at 12:47 p.m. PST (3:47 p.m. EST) and will touchdown at Jezero Crater 410 seconds later.

A key objective of Perseverances mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planets geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

Subsequent missions, currently under consideration by NASA in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these cached samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASAs Artemis lunar exploration plans.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

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