Los Angeles, Jun 30 (Xinhua): Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, have installed the main robotic arm on the Mars 2020 rover, according to a recent JPL release.
The main arm includes five electrical motors and five joints, known as the shoulder azimuth joint, shoulder elevation joint, elbow joint, wrist joint and turret joint.
Measuring 2.1 meters long, the arm will allow the rover to work as a human geologist by holding and using science tools with its turret, according to JPL.
"You have to give a hand to our rover arm installation team," said Ryan van Schilifgaarde, a support engineer at JPL for Mars 2020 assembly. "They made an extremely intricate operation look easy. We're looking forward to more of the same when the arm will receive its turret in the next few weeks."
The rover's turret will include high-definition cameras, science instruments, and a percussive drill and coring mechanism. Those tools will be used to analyze and collect samples of Martian rock and soil, which will be cached on the surface for return to Earth by a future mission, said JPL.
Mars 2020 is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July 2020, and land at Jezero Crater on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021.
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Washington, Jun 28 (Xinhua): The U.S. space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced Thursday that it will launch a spacecraft in 2026 to explore the richly organic world of Titan, an analog to the very early Earth.
A rotorcraft called "Dragonfly" will arrive at the Saturn's moon in 2034, looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth, which may lend clues to how life may have arisen on Earth, according to NASA.
Titan, the second largest moon in the solar system, is an icy world whose surface is completely obscured by a nitrogen-based golden atmosphere, four times denser than Earth's.
Dragonfly, a drone-like spacecraft with eight rotors, will explore Titan's diverse environments from organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater where liquid water and complex organic materials key to life once existed together for possibly tens of thousands of years.
The instruments on the spacecraft will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life, according to NASA.
"Dragonfly will visit a world filled with a wide variety of organic compounds, which are the building blocks of life and could teach us about the origin of life itself," said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science.
The rotorcraft will hop on the moon's surface in a series of leapfrog flights of up to eight km in order to take samples in diversified locations. It will eventually fly more than 175 km and become the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.
"It's remarkable to think of this rotorcraft flying miles and miles across the organic sand dunes of Saturn's largest moon, exploring the processes that shape this extraordinary environment," said Zurbuchen