Mars 2020 Rover Begins Nuclear Fueling Operations
Kyle Maxey posted on August 13, 2019 |
The electricity for NASA's Mars 2020 rover is provided by a power system called a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, or MMRTG.  (Image & Caption Courtesy of NASA)

The electricity for NASA's Mars 2020 rover is provided by a power system called a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, or MMRTG. (Image & Caption Courtesy of NASA)

NASA’s Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen has ordered that fueling begin for the Mars 2020 Rover, moving the next scientific mission to Mars one step closer to launch.

Like its predecessor the Curiosity rover, the Mars 2020 rover will get its power from a nuclear device. The 2020’s generator, named the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), will provide the machine with 110 watts of electrical power, more than enough to support its scientific instruments. To achieve this power output the MMRTH will convert the heat generated through the decay of the MMRTG’s plutonium-238 (Pu-238) core into electricity via thermocouples built into its heat engine.

“The progression of the Mars 2020 rover project is on schedule," said Zurbuchen. "The decision to begin fueling the MMRTG is another important milestone in keeping to our timetable for a July 2020 launch."

While a few components are still being added to the 2020 rover, NASA says that assembly of the craft’s interior is 100% complete and expects the mission to stay on schedule for launch. At the time of writing, the Mars 2020 rover is projected to lift off from the Cape Canaveral launch pad in July 2020 and arrive at Mars’ Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021.

While on Mars, the 2020 rover will attempt to ascertain whether life ever existed on the planet and how geological processes have shaped its history. If scientists find intriguing material, a sample return mission could be launched in the future.


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