Following a termination review earlier this year, SHERLOC, one of the Mars 2020 rovers, has been cleared to stay on the mission.
Ken Farley, project scientist for the Mars 2020 rover said that in December 2018, NASA directed the mission to conduct a termination/continuation review for the Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC). “It had a combination of technical challenges and high cost risk, meaning that it wasn’t clear yet what exactly the instrument was supposed to cost because there were technical challenges that had not yet been overcome," He said. With its set of spectrometers, a camera and a laser to study Martian rocks, scientists plan to use the instrument to look for evidence of past Martian life. Farley did not elaborate the exact problems with the instrument but said it had to do with the high-voltage power supply for its laser.
NASA did not provided further details about the cost growth for the mission, however Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s planetary science division, has said that the cost growth was less than 15% of the overall cost. Other aspects of the mission, such as rebuilding the heat shield that will provide the rover protection during entry into the Martian atmosphere, has been faring well. A key task of the Mars 2020 will be collecting cache samples of Martian minerals or organic material to be brought back to Earth by future missions. With regards to what Mars 2020 will do with those samples Farley said there’s no urgency in selecting a method for caching samples. “The beauty of this design is that none of that matters now, because the hardware is capable of doing any combination of carrying everything or putting everything on the ground or splitting it up.”
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