NASA’s Mars 2020 rover was moved into a vacuum chamber and tested under Mars-like environmental conditions to prepare for its launch to the Red Planet next summer.
A new time-lapse video shows engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, moving the rover into the chamber on Oct. 9. NASA moved the spacecraft from a high bay in the Spacecraft Simulator Building to the facility’s large vacuum chamber, according to a statement from the agency.
“Whenever you move the rover, it is a big deal,” Chris Chatellier, a Mars 2020 engineer at JPL, said in the statement. “There is a technician on every corner, and other engineers and safety inspectors are monitoring and assisting every step of the way. Every move is choreographed, briefed and rehearsed.”
After the rover was tested in the vacuum chamber, it was moved back to JPL’s Spacecraft Assembly Facility and engineers began radio-emissions testing on the spacecraft, according to the statement.
The rover is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in July 2020. Mars 2020 will land inside the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021, where it will search for signs of habitable environments and evidence of past microbial life.
Testing the rover in a Mars-like environment will help prepare the Mars 2020 operations team for the mission. In August, a NASA-funded project called SAND-E (Semi-Autonomous Navigation for Detrital Environments) tested Martian rover and drone prototypes on lava fields in Iceland to simulate the difficult terrain that spacecraft will encounter on the Red Planet.