NASA Uses Helicopter to Test Mars 2020 Lander Camera Systems

NASA testing LVS camera systems of the Mars 2020 rover 1 photo
Photo: NASA
The launch date for the Mars 2020 mission is fast approaching and, while caught with preparations for the upcoming Artemis lunar landing program, NASA still needs to find time and resources to test what’s left to test for the Martian launch.
Over the past few months, the pace of testing for Mars 2020 accelerated at NASA. The most recent big hurdle that was overcome was the acoustic and thermal vacuum (TVAC) testing for the mission’s spacecraft, a test that successfully concluded in April.

Over the weekend, NASA published images of a helicopter equipped with a peculiar rig on its nose. That rig is called Lander Vision System, and is the same as the one that will be used to guide the lander down to the Martian surface.

According to NASA, LSV uses cameras to take images of the terrain below the descending craft, trying to match them with onboard maps and data. This allows the spacecraft’s computers to determine its own location relative to potential hazards on the ground.

In case images show terrain impossible to land on, the spacecraft can decide to land its precious cargo elsewhere.

The test conducted by NASA with the help of a helicopter took place in Death Valley, California, and called for the helicopter to fly through a pre-planned sequence of maneuvers. The space agency did not say what were results of the test.

The Mars 2020 mission will take off next year on top of an Atlas V rocket and is scheduled to land on Mars in February 2021. The use of the LSV system that might allow it to choose another landing site is a premiere for human space exploration.

The mission’s main cargo is the Mars 2020 rover, a machine that will likely revolutionize our understanding of the planet’s past and prepare the way for potential crewed missions.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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