What Are the Cameras on the Mars 2020 Rover

What Are the Cameras on the Mars 2020 Rover

The rover has several cameras focused on engineering and science tasks. Some help us land on Mars, while others serve as our “eyes” on the surface to drive around. We use others to do scientific observations and aid in the collection of samples.

Descent Imaging Cameras For Landing

Ever wonder what it would be like to have an “astronaut’s” view of landing on Mars?

When the Curiosity rover landed on Mars, it recorded the descent and landing with its Mars Descent Imager or “MARDI” camera. The view was extremely valuable to engineers; it helped them understand what happens during one of the riskiest parts of the mission.

This camera shot full-color video of Curiosity’s journey through the atmosphere all the way down to the Martian surface. It gave the science team and rover drivers a glimpse of the landing site to aid them in accurately identify Curiosity’s landing spot and plan the rover’s first drives.

New Cameras for Landing

For the Mars 2020 rover, the engineering team is adding several cameras and a microphone to document entry, descent and landing in even greater detail. They will shoot full-color video of Mars 2020 throughout its descent to the Martian surface. Some of what the cameras see on the way down will help mission planners decide on the rover’s first drives.

These new eyes and ears of the rover are assembled from easily available commercial hardware. The cameras and microphone are being flown as a “discretionary payload,” which means it’s an optional add-on that will be an asset, but is not required for the mission.

The team expects that the entry, descent and landing cameras will capture better-than-ever recordings of the events that deliver the rover to the surface of the Red Planet.

The Mars 2020 entry, descent and landing camera suite includes:

  • “Up look” cameras to record the parachute’s inflation
  • A descent-stage “down look” camera to view the rover from above
  • A rover “up look” camera to see the descent stage in operation as it lowers the rover from the sky crane
  • A rover “down look” camera to view the ground

A First-Person View of Landing on Mars

In addition to providing engineering data, the cameras and microphone can be considered “public engagement payload.” They are likely to give us a good and dramatic sense of the ride down to the surface!

Memorable videos depicting Curiosity’s “Seven Minutes of Terror” during its entry, descent and landing on Mars rover went viral online, but used computer-generated animations.

No one has ever seen a parachute opening in the Martian atmosphere, the rover being lowered down to the surface of Mars on a tether from its descent stage, the bridle between the two being cut, and the descent stage flying away after rover touchdown!

  • What happens when the rover lands?
  • How much sand and rock is blown into the atmosphere by the retro rockets?
  • How does the landing system move as the rover nears the surface?
  • How do the wheels and legs respond when the rover finally puts all its weight down on Mars?

These are some of the most informative observations that the cameras can provide for engineers in the business of landing spacecraft on Mars. Mars 2020 will give us all a front-row seat in a Mars landing for the first time in the history of space exploration.


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