NASA Tests Camera That Will Land The 2020 Mars Rover

05 October 2016

Mars 2020 Lander Vision System flight tested aboard a Masten “Xombie”. (image Credit: NASA)Mars 2020 Lander Vision System flight tested aboard a Masten “Xombie”. (image Credit: NASA)

Here it is. This is the camera that will assist in the landing of NASA's next Mars rover mission.

Thankfully, Andrew Johnson, principal investigator in the Lander Vision System (LVS) development, reported that the tests built confidence that the vision system that will enable Mars 2020 to land safely.

The camera tests were conducted on a rocket built by Masten Space Systems.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, leading development of the Mars 2020 rover’s LVS, launched the prototype vision system 1,066 feet into the air aboard Masten’s rocket-powered “Xombie” test platform and helped guide the rocket to a precise landing at a pre-designated target.

LVS flew as part of a larger system of experimental landing technologies called the Autonomous Descent and Ascent Powered-flight Testbed, or ADAPT.

LVS can photograph the terrain beneath a descending spacecraft and match it with onboard maps. This allows the craft to detect its location relative to landing hazards such as boulders and outcroppings.

The system can then direct the craft toward a safe landing at its primary target site or divert touchdown toward better terrain if there are potential dangers in the target landing area. Imaging matching is aided by an inertial measurement unit that monitors orientation.

"By providing funding for flight tests, FOP motivated us to build guidance, navigation and control payloads for testing on Xombie,” said Johnson . “In the end we showed a closed loop pinpoint landing demo that eliminated any technical concerns with flying the Lander Vision System on Mars 2020.”

LVS enables a broad range of potential landing sites for Mars missions.Typically, Mars landers have not possessed the ability to analyze and react to hazards. Instead, mission planners have selected wide-open landing sites with mostly flat terrain. This limited the areas a rover could explore. It is expected that LVS will enable safe landing at these scientifically compelling Mars landing sites.

According to NASA, an LVS-equipped mission will open up opportunities to land within more challenging environments and pursue new Mars terrain. With LVS is expected to accompany the Mars 2020 mission, so the researchers are now focused on building the flight system ahead of its eventual role on the red planet.

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