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NASA Unveils Rover that Will Explore Mars in 2020; is its Name an Ode to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?


NASA has revealed details of the next rover it plans to send to Mars in 2020.

According to a news release announcing the rover, NASA said they fielded 58 instrument proposals from engineers all over the globe. The Mars 2020 rover will be equipped with seven instruments carefully selected by the mission's managers.

Altogether, the instruments have a $130 million value in terms of development.

"Today we take another important step on our journey to Mars," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in the release. "While getting to and landing on Mars is hard, Curiosity was an iconic example of how our robotic scientific explorers are paving the way for humans to pioneer Mars and beyond. Mars exploration will be this generation's legacy, and the Mars 2020 rover will be another critical step on humans' journey to the Red Planet."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announced the rover will be aptly called SHERLOC, as an acronym for Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals. Of course, the shortened version is a tip of the cap to Sherlock Holmes, the title character of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective stories.

"This instrument uses two distinct detection strategies," JPL's Luther Beegle, SHERLOC principal investigator, said in the release. "It can detect an important class of carbon molecules with high sensitivity, and it also identifies minerals that provide information about ancient aqueous environments."

NASA has had wild success in exploring Mars via rover, with Opportunity still going strong on the Red Planet and Curiosity approaching the second Earth year in its mission. Both have been vital to many of the major discoveries made of the Red Planet, such as several pieces of evidence suggesting Mars could have once hosted microbial life.

"The 2020 rover will help answer questions about the Martian environment that astronauts will face and test technologies they need before landing on, exploring and returning from the Red Planet," William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said in the release. "Mars has resources needed to help sustain life, which can reduce the amount of supplies that human missions will need to carry. Better understanding the Martian dust and weather will be valuable data for planning human Mars missions.

"Testing ways to extract these resources and understand the environment will help make the pioneering of Mars feasible."

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