National Aeronautics Space Agency's (NASA) Perseverance Rover which will be landing on Mars in February 2021 will have the most advanced pair of "eyes" ever sent to the Red Planet's surface. Mastcam-Z instrument which will be mounted on the Perseverance Rover comes with advanced zoom capabilities which will help make 3D imagery more easily for the mission.
Mastcam-Z [Z stands for zoom] is an upgraded version of Mastcam which was used in Curiosity Rover mission. The camera produced fantastic panorama images but lacked zoom capabilities. Curiosity's Mastcam was initially designed to have zoom capability however, it proved difficult to pack the feature in such a small instrument then as Curiosity was launched in 2011.
"The original plan was for Curiosity to have a zoom camera that could go out to an extreme wide-angle like a spaghetti western view," said Jim Bell of Arizona State University, Mastcam-Z's principal investigator and Mastcam's deputy principal investigator.
"It would have been an amazing panoramic perspective but proved really hard to build at the time," Bell added.
Perseverance is a robotic scientist weighing about 2,260 pounds (1,025 kilograms). The rover's astrobiology mission will search for signs of past microbial life. It will characterise the planet's climate and geology, collect samples for a future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
The Rover is currently undergoing final assembly and checkout at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will either be launched in July or August on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and is scheduled to land at Mars' Jezero Crater on February 18, 2021.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Through its Artemis program, NASA intends to land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024 and establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028, using it as a stepping stone to sending astronauts to Mars.
(With ANI inputs)