Our curiosity about life on other planets combined with advanced extraplanetary technology led to multiple expeditions on planets. Space rovers play a major role in these expeditions for research work.
WHAT ARE SPACE ROVERS?
Rovers are robotic exploration devices in the form of motor vehicles. It is usually about the size of a small SUV. It is deployed on a celestial body via a lander-style spacecraft and is allowed to move on the planetary surfaces so that it can collect various information about that planet and take different samples of soil, rocks, liquid for research.
Rover can basically withstand all the adverse conditions of a foreign planet that an astronaut can’t like harsh temperature, cosmic rays, corrosion, high level of acceleration, etc.
BASIC STRUCTURE OF PERSEVERANCE ROVER.
A rover’s body is made in such a way that it can work autonomously with little ground assistance and remain functional without needing time to time management. A rover consists of a body or shell made up of lightweight, durable, and extraordinarily strong metal.
Space-age aluminum alloys are the best choice for making the shells and wheels of the rover. As we all know that aluminum being that a light metal provides an edge to the body of a rover moreover it keeps the vehicle’s vital protected and temperature controlled.
Even the wheels of the rover were made of thin aluminum. We know that the Martian surface is made up of loose sand, dirt and rocks called regolith therefore having a rubber tire will not only make the rover heavy but will also increase its chances of crashing.
Rovers require power to move. The main source of power for each rover comes from a multi-panel solar array. They look almost like “wings,” but their purpose is to provide energy, not fly but this was the case with earlier rovers. The latest perseverance rover ditched the idea of power generated from solar panels and adopted the nuclear option as the source of energy.
Perseverance rover will be powered by INL’s Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, or MMRTG, which uses pellet forms of the radioactive material plutonium-238 to generate electricity.
It contains cameras as eyes and accelerometers as ears to perceive and collect information. It has legs or wheels for its mobility on the extraplanetary surface. Additional seven scientific instruments are attached to the rover for effective research these are
Mastcam – z is a mast-mounted camera attached to the rover for effective zoom in, focus. It helps to take 3D pictures and video at high speed. It weighs around 8.8 pounds.
“Mastcam-Z will be the main eyes of NASA’s next Mars rover.- Jim Bell, Principal investigator
MEDA – Mars environmental dynamics analyzer’s main job is to measure weather including wind speed and direction, temperature and humidity, and monitor dust with the sensors located on the “neck” and on the deck, front, and interior of the rover’s body.
MOXIE – The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment is better known as MOXIE. It produces up to 10 grams per hour of oxygen from the carbon dioxide present on the surface of Mars. It will demonstrate a way by which future explorers can produce oxygen from the martian surface.
PIXL – consists of a tool called an X-ray spectrometer. It can identify the chemical compositions at a very tiny scale which helps to study the chemical makeup of rocks.PIXL also has a camera that takes super close-up pictures of rock and soil textures.
RIMFAX – The Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment, known as RIMFAX, uses radar waves to probe the ground under the rover. The radar antenna is located on the lower rear and is used to study the geologic feature under the surface.
SHERLOC – The Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals is mounted on the rover’s robotic arm. It uses multiple instruments like cameras, spectrometers, and a laser to search for any alterations by the .watery environment as well as any evidence of past microbial life. It helps in the fine-scale detection of minerals, organic molecules, and potential biosignatures.
SuperCam – It helps in detecting the atomic and molecular makeup of rocks and soils along with their chemical composition with camera, lasers, and spectrometers. It can identify the chemical and mineral makeup of targets as small as a pencil point from a distance of more than 20 feet (7 meters).
LIST OF OTHER ROVERS ON CELESTIAL BODIES.
LUNAR ROVERS –A total of 6 rovers are sent on the surface of the moon, out of which only one is active at present (YUTU-2 of CNSA, CHINA)
ASTEROID ROVERS – 3 Rovers were sent to 162173 Ryugu. Only ROVER- I B of MINERVA-II is active which was sent by JAXA, JAPAN
MARS ROVERS – Till date 8 rovers have been sent to mars out of which only 3 are active. These are CURIOSITY AND PERSEVERANCE by NASA, USA, and ZHURONG by CNSA, CHINA.
(1)The European-Russian Exomars rover ROSALIND FRANKLIN is planned to launch in 2022.
(2) ZEPHYR ROVER on the surface of Venus is proposed to launch by 2039 by NASA’s Glenn research center.
Pragyan was the rover of Chandrayaan -2 which was sent to the lunar surface by ISRO, INDIA. It was designed to operate on solar power. Unfortunately, the Vikram lander, carrying the Pragayan rover crashed. The lander and the Pragyan rover inside the lander were destroyed by the impact, creating an impact site and debris field spanning kilometers.
Now, you may think that the situation here on earth itself is bad enough. Yet we spend billions and billions of dollars on spacecraft, rovers, and stuff like these. But however illogical it may seem there is much more to it than meets the eye. Scientists believe that the cure to larger problems, the earth is facing today, lies in the knowledge of the origin and evolution of its siblings as well as itself. Here comes the role of rovers and spacecraft and extraterrestrial missions.