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Every camera on the Mars Perseverance rover from NASA explained – Digital Camera World

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The landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars is one of the most exciting events to happen for space enthusiasts in quite a while. The Perseverance rover will be searching for ancient life, collecting terrain samples and collecting important data about Mars’ geology and climate. 

The rover will be landing in a place with high potential for finding signs of past microbial life – the Jezero Crater, a 28-mile-wide crater that was a possible oasis in its distant past. According to NASA, between 3-4 billion years ago a river there flowed into a body of water the size of Lake Tahoe. This deposited sediments packed with carbonite minerals and clay. The Perseverance science team believes this ancient river delta could have collected and preserved organic molecules and other signs of microbial life.

• Read more: Best camera for astrophotography

While the rover’s mission is certainly fascinating, the technology that Perseverance is carrying is exciting in its own right as well. In total, the Perseverance rover is carrying 23 cameras. Nine of these are engineering cameras, seven are science cameras and seven are entry, descent and landing cameras.

We’ve broken down what each of these cameras are designed to do below, but make sure to check out the full NASA blog for more detail.

NASA

(Image credit: NASA)

Mars rover: Descent imaging cameras

The Mars Curiosity rover was equipped with a Mars Descent Imager camera that recorded full-color video of Curiosity’s journey through the atmosphere and down to the surface, giving the NASA science team a glimpse of the landing. However, for the Mars Perseverance rover, the engineering team has added several cameras and a microphone to document the entry, descent and landing in even greater detail. 

This tech means that Perseverance was able to capture full-color video throughout the vehicle’s final descent to the surface (this hasn’t been released yet, as it’s presumably still be processed). 

According to the NASA blog, these cameras include:

Parachute “up look” cameras: Mounted on the backshell, looking upward at parachute deployment and inflation.

• Descent-stage “down look”camera: Mounted on the descent, looking downward at the rover as it is lowered during the skycrane maneuver.

• Rover “up look” camera: Mounted on the deck of the rover, looking upward at the descent stage during the skycrane maneuver and descent stage separation.

• Rover “down look” camera: Mounted beneath the rover, looking downward at the surface during landing.

NASA

This shows where the descent imaging cameras were placed (Image credit: NASA)

Mars rover: Engineering cameras

“Enhanced” engineering cameras for driving

The Mars Perseverance rover has “enhanced” engineering cameras to help the human operators on Earth drive the rover more precisely. These cameras are also designed to better target the movements of the arm, drill and other tools that get close to their targets. 

“A much wider field-of-view gives the cameras a much better view of the rover itself. This is important for checking on the health of various rover parts and measuring changes in the amount of dust and sand that may accumulate on rover surfaces. The new cameras can also take pictures while the rover is moving.”

Interestingly, NASA has given some technical specifications for these engineering cameras:

Weight: Less than 425 grams (less than a pound)
Image size: 5,120 x 3,840 pixels
Image resolution: 20 megapixels

Hazard avoidance cameras (HazCams)

Perseverance carries six newly developed Hazard Detection Cameras to help the rover avoid hazards to the front and back pathways. These could include large rocks, trenches or sand dunes. Engineers will also be using the front HazCams when using the robotic arms to take measurements, photos and collect rocks and soil samples. 

Navigation cameras (NavCams)

Designed to aid in autonomous navigation for Perseverance, the two color stereo navigation cameras help the rover make its own navigation decisions without consulting controllers on Earth. These two cameras can see an object as small as a golf ball from 82 feet (25 meters) away. 

CacheCam

The CacheCam is a single cameras that’s positioned on the rover’s underbelly at the top of the sample cache. It’s designed to see down the top of the sample tube and take microscopic pictures of the top of the sample material before the tube is sealed. This will help scientists keep a record of the entire process as each sample is collected.

NASA

The CacheCam will take microscopic pictures of samples from Mars (Image credit: NASA)

Mars rover: Science cameras

There are five types of science cameras on the Mars Perseverance rover – each designed to perform a different function. We’ve given a brief overview of their functions below, but make sure to check out the NASA blog for more detail. 

Mastcam-Z

Mastcam-Z is a pair of cameras that takes color images and video, three-dimensional stereo images and features a powerful zoom lens. 

SuperCam

The SuperCam camera is able to fire a laser at mineral targets that are beyond the reach of the rover’s robotic arm. It will then analyze the vaporized rock to reveal its elemental composition.

PIXL

The PIXL camera uses X-ray fluorescence to identify chemical elements in target spots as small as a grain of salt. 

SHERLOC Context Imager

The main tools featured with the SHERLOC Context Imager are spectrometers and a laser. However, it also has an integrated “context” macro camera to take extreme close-ups of the areas that are studied. 

WATSON

The Watson camera is located at the “hand” or turret at the end of Perseverance’s robotic arm. Its designed to capture the images that bridge the scale from the detailed images and maps that SHERLOC collects of Martian minerals and organics to the broader scales that SuperCam and Mastcam-Z observe from the mast. 

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SpaceX lands NASA launch contract for mission to Jupiter's moon Europa – Euronews

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By Steve Gorman

LOSANGELES – Elon Musk’s private rocket company SpaceX was awarded a $178 million launch services contract for NASA‘s first mission focusing on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa and whether it may host conditions suitable for life, the space agency said on Friday.

The Europa Clipper mission is due for blastoff in October 2024 on a Falcon Heavy rocket owned by Musk’s company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp, from NASA‘s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA said in a statement posted online.

The contract marked NASA‘s latest vote of confidence in the Hawthorne, California-based company, which has carried several cargo payloads and astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA in recent years.

In April, SpaceX was awarded a $2.9 billion contract to build the lunar lander spacecraft for the planned Artemis program that would carry NASA astronauts back to the moon for the first time since 1972.

But that contract was suspended after two rival space companies, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics Inc, protested against the SpaceX selection.

The company’s partly reusable 23-story Falcon Heavy, currently the most powerful operational space launch vehicle in the world, flew its first commercial payload into orbit in 2019.

NASA did not say what other companies may have bid on the Europa Clipper launch contract.

The probe is to conduct a detailed survey of the ice-covered Jovian satellite, which is a bit smaller than Earth’s moon and is a leading candidate in the search for life elsewhere in the solar system.

A bend in Europa’s magnetic field observed by NASA‘s Galileo spacecraft in 1997 appeared to have been caused by a geyser gushing through the moon’s frozen crust from a vast subsurface ocean, researchers concluded in 2018. Those findings supported other evidence of Europa plumes.

Among the Clipper mission’s objectives are to produce high-resolution images of Europa’s surface, determine its composition, look for signs of geologic activity, measure the thickness of its icy shell and determine the depth and salinity of its ocean, NASA said.

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NASA’s Europa Clipper will fly on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy – The Verge

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NASA’s Europa Clipper will start its journey to Jupiter’s icy moon aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket built by SpaceX. NASA will pay SpaceX $178 million to launch the vehicle in October 2024.

The Europa Clipper got the green light from NASA in 2015. It will fly by the moon 45 times, providing researchers with a tantalizing look at the icy world, believed to have an ocean lurking under its icy crust. The Clipper is equipped with instruments that will help scientists figure out if the moon could support life.

For years, the Clipper was legally obligated to launch on NASA’s long-delayed Space Launch System (SLS). But with the SLS perpetually delayed and over budget, NASA has urged Congress to consider allowing the Europa Clipper to fly commercial. Switching to another vehicle could save up to $1 billion, NASA’s inspector general said in 2019.

NASA got permission to consider commercial alternatives to the SLS in the 2021 budget, and started officially looking for a commercial alternative soon after.

The SLS has powerful allies in Congress, who have kept the costly program alive for years, even as it blew past budgets and deadlines. The first flight of the SLS was originally supposed to happen in 2017. That mission — launching an uncrewed trip around the Moon — has since been pushed to November 2021, and keeping to that new schedule remains “highly unlikely” according to NASA’s Office of Inspector General, a watchdog agency.

SpaceX first launched its Falcon Heavy rocket in 2018, and started flying satellites in 2019. Earlier this year, NASA selected the rocket as the ride to space for two parts of a planned space station orbiting the Moon.

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Researchers Develop Genome Techniques to Analyze Adaptation of Cattle – AZoCleantech

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Jared Decker, a fourth-generation cattle farmer, has been aware of cattle suffering from health and productivity problems when they are moved from one location to another. The shift is from a region where they had spent generations to another place with a different climate, grass, or elevation.

Jared Decker is on a mission to help farmers learn more about what their cattle need to thrive. Image Credit: University of Missouri.

Decker, as a researcher at the University of Missouri, looks at the chances of using science to resolve this issue, thereby serving a dual purpose to enhance the cattle’s welfare and sealing the leak in an almost $50 billion industry in the United States.

When I joined MU in 2013, I moved cattle from a family farm in New Mexico to my farm here in Missouri. New Mexico is hot and dry, and Missouri is also hot but has much more humidity. The cattle certainly didn’t do as well as they did in New Mexico, and that spurred me to think about how we could give farmers more information about what their animals need to thrive.

Jared Decker, Associate Professor and Wurdack Chair, Animal Genetics, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources 

The study was published in the journal PLOS Genetics on July 23rd, 2021.

Decker and his research team have revealed the proof exposing the fact that cattle are losing their key environmental adaptations. The researchers regard this as a loss due to the lack of genetic information available to farmers.

After assessing the genetic materials dating back to the 1960s, the team determined particular DNA variations linked with adaptations that could someday be used to develop DNA tests for cattle. These tests could help educate the farmers regarding the adaptability of cattle from one environment or another.

We can see that, for example, historically cows in Colorado are likely to have adaptations that ease the stress on their hearts at high altitudes. But if you bring in bulls or semen from a different environment, the frequency of those beneficial adaptations is going to decrease. Over generations, that cow herd will lose advantages that would have been very useful to a farmer in Colorado.

Jared Decker, Associate Professor and Wurdack Chair, Animal Genetics, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, University of Missouri

The research team included then-doctoral student Troy Rowan who had examined 60 years’ worth of bovine DNA data from tests of cryo-preserved semen produced by cattle breed associations. They observed that, as time runs, the genes related to higher fertility and productivity increased as a result of careful selection by farmers. Also, many genes relating to environmental adaptations have decreased.

According to Decker, the farmers are not to be blamed as there are no affordable methods available at present to identify the suitability of cattle for a specific environment. The study also proposes easy-to-use cattle DNA tests that focus on the particular adaptations identified in the study.

Such adaptations include resistance to vasoconstriction, which is a process of blood vessel narrowing that takes place at high elevation and puts excessive stress on the heart. Also creating resistance to the toxin in the grass can result in vasoconstriction and tolerance for increased temperature or humidity. All these factors tend to decline over generations when the cattle are shifted from the associated surroundings.

Sometimes, natural and artificial selection are moving in the same direction, and other times there is a tug of war between them. Efficiency and productivity have vastly improved in the last 60 years, but environmental stressors are never going to go away. Farmers need to know more about the genetic makeup of their herd, not only for the short-term success of their farm, but for the success of future generations.

Jared Decker, Associate Professor and Wurdack Chair, Animal Genetics, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

The first widely adopted genetic test for cattle was developed at the University of Missouri in 2007. Decker and Rowan are looking forward to giving further details of the development. Both the researchers grew up on farms with a desire to use research to help farmers to balance farm traditions of America with the requirement for eco-friendly business practices.

As a society, we must produce food more sustainably and be good environmental stewards. Making sure a cow’s genetics match their environment makes life better for cattle and helps farmers run efficient and productive operations. It’s a win-win,” concluded Decker.

Journal Reference:

Rowan, T. N., et al. (2021) Powerful detection of polygenic selection and evidence of environmental adaptation in US beef cattle. PLOS Genetics. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1009652.

Source: https://missouri.edu/

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