The UNSW Chemical Society (ChemSoc), one of the oldest societies in Australia, is proud to present an online UNSW ChemSoc Lecture on “The Mars 2020 Rover Mission” by Mitch Schulte, NASA Headquarters.
The next rover mission to Mars represents the culmination of almost two decades of strategic missions in the exploration of Mars. Our understanding of the Red Planet has evolved from a global frozen desert to a dynamic world that once was warmer, wetter, and may have supported microbial life. The series of missions reflect this evolution, moving from global reconnaissance, to following the water, to seeking the signs of life.
The Mars 2020 rover will be outfitted with seven sophisticated payload elements to conduct remote sensing and in situ science, demonstrate exploration technology, and cache samples for potential return to Earth. The instrument suite includes a combination of a zooming, binocular, multi-spectral camera; a telescopic imager; two Raman spectrometers with different wavelength lasers; a visible/near-infrared spectrometer; a Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectrometer; an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, a microscopic imager, and ground-penetrating radar. Together, they will enable the science team to establish the geological context of the landing site area, assess whether past or present environments could support microbial life, search for potential biosignatures, and use this information to identify samples for caching.
The Mars 2020 Rover Mission is the first step in bringing samples of known provenance from Mars back to Earth for study, and the mission will be collecting approximately 20 core samples during the prime mission for eventual return. To prepare for future human exploration, the payload includes the ability for in situ resource utilization, converting CO2 from the Martian atmosphere to O2, the ability to assess physical characteristics of the dust, and environmental monitoring of the temperature, pressure, humidity, wind, and radiation at Mars' surface. The Mars 2020 Mission will pave a significant portion of the path to Mars for scientific understanding and future human exploration.
Dr. Mitch Schulte has an A.B. and a Ph.D., both in Earth & Planetary Sciences from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
Mitch is currently a Program Scientist with the Mars Exploration Program and the Planetary Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, USA. As a Program Scientist, Mitch is responsible for and manages the science content of NASA Mars missions. Currently, he oversees the U.S. contribution to the Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) instrument on the European Space Agency/Roscosmos ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover mission and NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission. Learn more about Mitch.